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AAUW Girls STEM Conference

Hamilton Girls Eye Brainy Careers

Tech Conference Girls

The amazing group of 55 seventh and eight-grade girls from Hamilton you see above--on a visit to Long Beach City College--took a half day of school this spring to meet a group of Long Beach women who hope to motivate them to choose a highly-skilled technical or professional career.

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Career Conference these girls attended was organized by the Long Beach Branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women), with financial support from The Port of Long Beach and Toyota Auto Body of California.  It is is part of a longstanding effort to encourage underserved young women to attend college and explore the possibility of working in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) coined the STEM acronym.  NSF is a U.S. government agency whose goals include helping the United States to stay competitive in the world economy.  Since the 1990s they have supported efforts by business leaders, schools at all levels, and community groups to improve technical education, with special attention to women and minorities.

Girls, more than boys, face enormous peer pressure not to excel in math, computing, and engineering.  As a result, at almost every step of the educational ladder, girls walk away.  In fact, by seventh grade, a majority of girls have lost interest.  Over the last 12 years, the Long Beach AAUW has sponsored STEM conferences like this one to address this issue.  

The conferences open with a dynamic female speaker who provides a keynote message about overcoming obstacles and reaching one’s dreams.   The girls then choose from workshops which involve hands-on challenges that simulate activities in science-related careers—things like chemical engineering, environmental science, audiology, civil engineering, and sustainability management.  Since the inception of these conferences, over 1,500 girls have participated.

The AAUW branch relies on “champion teachers” at each school to recruit the girls, and to chaperone them when they attend.  Hamilton has a particularly enthusiastic “champion teacher” contingent, whose sponsor teachers include William Feliciano (Math), Helen Ahn (Science), Carolyn Holler (Language Arts), Blanca Tillett (English Learning Specialist), Cindy Mendez (English), and Carrie Barrios (RSP Coordinator).

Long Beach City College hosted the event on its North Campus, as it has in the past.  For many of the girls it is their first visit to a college campus, as well as their first conference experience.

At the end of the meeting, each girl receives a packet of resources containing a handbook of occupations, tips on applying to a California state university, and financial aid information.  To help reach Spanish-speaking families, the information is presented in both English and Spanish.