Each year several seventh grade girls from Oakdale, Riverbank, and Escalon are selected by the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to attend a week-long, all-girls camp called “Tech Trek” to encourage them in the fields of math and science.
“We have now sent 104 girls to camp in the last 14 years,” reported local AAUW member and Tech Trek coordinator Clydora Hippler. “Tech Trek has grown from one camp on the Stanford campus to 10 campuses throughout the state.”
This year, the local AAUW sent 10 girls to the campus of CSU Fresno for a week over the summer where they lived in the dorms with other girls from around the state while they took special classes on math and science, did experiments and participated in labs inside and outside of the classroom. The classes, taught by female teachers and professors, also offered the girls an opportunity to learn about the important contributions of women in the math and science fields.
The Oakdale Soroptimist International, the Federated Women’s Club of Riverbank, and the Riverbank Women of Action also helped with the scholarships, or “camperships,” for the local girls to attend the week-long Tech Trek at CSU Fresno.
Lauren Watson, now an eighth grader at Oakdale Junior High School, wants to be a veterinarian and said that she learned about different kinds of wild animals during a raft trip down the San Joaquin River while at Tech Trek.
“It was fun and learning at the same time,” she said. “…We learned new stuff every day. We always had something new to do… It kept us interested…never bored.”
She added that she is strong in both math and science but has a preference for science. One class focused on combining math and an art project, which she said made her enjoy math more. She also took a chemistry class that she said she was glad to get because the experience will help her when she’ll have to take it in college, as well as help her move forward in her career.
“It was really great having the women teachers. They really stressed that women can do science just as much as any man,” Watson added about the all-girls experience.
She also said that she grew and matured in the process because she was away from her mom and her friends, but she made new friends in the dorm. She added that walking around the college campus made her feel like a college student, even though she’s only 13 years old.
“…It was just really fun, taking yourself out of the everyday, learning with all these other kids… I met other people (in class) who have the same interests,” she said.
In order to support Tech Trek, high school scholarships, and other causes that tie into AAUW’s principles of helping women and girls reach their full potential, the local organization holds an annual film-screening event as its primary fundraiser.
This year’s film matinee fundraiser will be held Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Galaxy Theater in Riverbank. The film presentation is “Get Low” with Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek. Hippler described it as a spin-off from a folktale and a real life legend.
Hors d’oeuvres will be served from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., followed by the film. All the proceeds go to help send seventh grade girls in the Oakdale, Riverbank, and Escalon areas to Tech Trek camp. For tickets, call Barbara at (209) 613-1600.
The local AAUW branch hosted a Tech Trek reunion and swim party for all previous Tech Trek campers after the recent crop of Tech Trekkers returned from camp. The girls also attend one of the AAUW’s regular monthly meetings each year.
“We try to mentor the girls as much as we can with invitations to activities throughout the year,” Hippler added.
The most recent Tech Trek campers also volunteer to work at the film matinee fundraiser each year. This year’s Tech Trek attendees were Oakdale Junior High School students Watson, Jasmine Yong, Esmeralda Salcedo and Brooke Rodriguez; El Portal Middle School (Escalon) students Rosie Munoz, Maia Zack, and Zoe Brown; and Cardozo Middle School (Riverbank) students Carolina Duarte, Ashley Murillo, and Mayleigh Brown. The girls went through a recommendation, application and interview process to be considered for selection to attend Tech Trek.
Anyone interested in joining the local AAUW branch must hold an associates or higher degree from an AAUW qualified institution or hold an honorary degree. The local branch serves the Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and north Modesto areas.