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Girls Encouraged In Science, Math At Tech Trek
Tech Trek attendees representing Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon are from front left, Katie Schultz, Simberlee Prime, Vanessa Torres, and Haley Richardson. Second row: junior counselor Ariana Barajas, Abbygail Liv, Quinn Gagos, Emilie Crossman, Rachelle Pabalan, and dorm mom Jen Griffith. Back row: dorm mom Janet Betcher, Saba Kaur, and Ellen Degerman. - photo by Photo Contributed
Several junior high school girls from Oakdale, Escalon, and Riverbank got to experience a taste of college life for a week over the summer when the local chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) selected the 10 girls to attend a science- and math-focused camp called Tech Trek at CSU Fresno.
The girls had to write an essay about why they should be chosen to go to Tech Trek and then they went through an interview process prior to selection. Local AAUW Tech Trek coordinator Clydora Hippler said that the interview is a good growth opportunity for the girls.
“We get such a charge, as a branch, meeting these girls,” Hippler said. “They’re enthusiastic and motivated and are so outstanding.”
The attendees from Oakdale were Emilie Crossman, Quinn Gagos, Katie Schultz, and Rachelle Pabalan. The Escalon attendees were Ellen Degerman, Saba Kaur, and Abbygail Liv. The Riverbank attendees were Simberlee Prime, Vanessa Torres, and Haley Richardson.
The camp is meant to encourage girls who’ve finished seventh grade in the fields of math and science. It took place over the summer at CSU Fresno and was attended by girls from around the state. There were also a handful of other participating universities throughout the state that hosted Tech Trek campers.
The girls lived in the college dorms with other Tech Trek girls and chaperones, including local AAUW chapter members Jen Griffith and Janet Betcher, from around the state and ate at the college commissary. They took hands-on classes in math and science from female teachers and professors, did experiments and participated in labs both in and outside of the classroom, including field trips.
After returning from Tech Trek, the local chapter hosted a pool party for the girls where they shared their experiences and ideas on how they would like help from the AAUW members. They also attended a local AAUW chapter meeting in September where they shared more about what they learned.
“We encourage these girls to set their sights high and go for it,” Hippler said.
She added that the AAUW members also serve as a support system for girls whose families don’t have college backgrounds.
Oakdale Junior High School eighth grader Emilie Crossman said that it was kind of hard to say goodbye to her parents for a week and not have a cell phone, though the girls were able to call home. She said she was a little nervous at first when she was going to have a roommate she didn’t know, but she and her roommate, who was from Bakersfield, quickly became friends.
“It really helped me to be with a lot of girls I didn’t know,” Crossman said. “…It taught me not to make judgments about people, especially by how they look.”
She added that she got to know people by working with them throughout the week.
Crossman also talked about her CSI science class and explained that each day they did something different that helped them to develop a conclusion and solve the mystery. She also learned how important it was to take good notes, as the first day of that class they had to sketch the “crime scene” and make notes about what they saw. The following day, they began doing experiments with fibers and other clues found at the scene.
She liked that her Tech Trek classes were about half the size of her regular school classes because it allowed for time to walk through the experiments and everyone was involved.
One of Crossman’s favorite experiences at Tech Trek was learning about women who were trailblazers in math.
“I never knew that women were so important to math,” she said. “When you think of a mathematician, you think of a man. Or a scientist, you think of a man, like Einstein.”
She said it opened her eyes to the contributions of women to the field throughout history.
She also said that Tech Trek helped her with preparing for college and noted how much larger college campuses are than her school campus and how dorm rooms don’t look like they do on television shows.
Hippler said that AAUW encourages girls to go to college and that they continue to mentor the girls after Tech Trek and through high school. She said that they still communicate with former Tech Trek campers who are now in college.
Hippler added that the local Soroptimist of Oakdale and the Riverbank Federated Women’s clubs came on board with AAUW to also help provide scholarships for the girls to attend the camp.
When the local area Tech Trek attendees are high school seniors, they will be eligible to apply for the AAUW’s four-year college scholarship. One college scholarship is given each year.
The local AAUW chapter will hold its annual fundraiser this year on Nov. 7 at Galaxy Theater in Riverbank. The girls will be in attendance and will also help with the food and raffle responsibilities. This fundraiser pays for the girls’ scholarships to the camp.
AAUW statewide sends approximately 600 girls to six college campuses for this one-week program. AAUW is a nationwide organization that lobbies and advocates for gender equity; works with teachers, administrators, students, and parents to institute gender-fair education programs in schools; provides leadership training; and promotes multicultural awareness.