On Thursday, July 23, Meridian International hosted a reception at the historic White Meyer House to celebrate the send-off of 30 American girls to Rwanda, where they are participating in a three-week STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) camp. The girls left for Africa the following day.
The event featured remarks by Stuart Holliday, President and CEO, Meridian International Center; Sara Link, President, AOL Charitable Foundation; Melissa Hillebrenner, Director, Girl Up campaign, the United Nations Foundation; and, Andre O’Brien, Special Representative, Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships.
In Rwanda, the American students will meet up with 90 students from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda at the Gashora Girls Academy, where they will learn about computer science, robotics, and arts and culture. The intensive camp includes interactive projects—that allow the girls to utilize their newly acquired skills—and mentorship opportunities—that enable the girls to learn from women who are active in STEAM fields.
Many of the girls selected to participate from the United States, all of which are entering grade 10, 11, or 12, are presidents or members of Girl Up clubs at their respective high schools. At the reception, many of the girls shared their excitement for the forthcoming experience and what they hope to gain from the camp.
Imani Brooks (Virginia), who applied for the program after receiving encouragement from her Girl Up club advisor, said she looks forward to networking with other young women interested in STEM fields and diplomats associated with the program.
Emily Adcock (North Carolina), who is a Girl Up chapter President, said, “I am most excited about the engineering aspect of the camp and learning new things.”
Adcock also said she looked forward to the social aspects of the camp.
“Meeting new people and the culture exchange is going to be really, truly amazing,” Adcock said.
She added that she hopes to use her experiences in Rwanda to improve her Girl Up chapter at her North Carolina high school by sharing what she learns with other members and improving the functional aspects of the club.
Garima Singh (Texas) noted her interest in “eliminating girls’ stereotypes against STEM.”
Another STEAM camp participant, Meghan Pak (California), noted that negative stigmas regarding women in STEM subjects previously made her reluctant to enter a STEM field. Having regained her interest in STEM subjects, Pak looked forward to her then upcoming experience.
Both Singh and Pal said they view the camp as an opportunity to challenge societal barriers regarding women and science.
Cameron Moore (California) said that she sees the camp as a chance to familiarize herself with STEM subjects, highlighting that she is most excited for the week dedicated to robotics.
The WiSci Girls STEAM camp is a collaborative effort by the US State Department and many partners – including the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, Intel, Microsoft4Afrika, AOL Charitable Foundation, Rwanda Girls Initiative, Rwandan Ministry of Education, the African Leadership Academy, the Global Entrepreneurship Network, Meridian International Center, and UNESCO – to empower young women by enhancing their technical skills and cultural awareness.
The camp concludes on August 15, at which point the girls will return to their schools with new connections, cultural awareness, and STEAM experience. During their three weeks abroad, the girls will be educated on how to share their new knowledge and experiences from the WiSci STEAM camp with their schools and communities, so that the lessons these girls learn become far-reaching. This camp aims to empower these young women to start their own Girl Up clubs and to give them to tools to do so, with the hope that their experiences will benefit not only them, but girls around the world.