Add the “A” and It’s Full STEAM Ahead for Girls
By Jamie Mittelman, Manager, AOL Citizenship Team
The Women in Science (WiSci) STEAM camp (STEM + Art & Design) is a first-of-its-kind program that was established to globally tackle the gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The camp provided 120 high school girls from across the U.S. and Africa with the opportunity to learn valuable skills in the STEAM fields while enjoying rich cross-cultural experiences.
As Nusrat Ahmed, WiSci STEAM camp counselor wrote, “It is here I learned of the powerful idea that the beauty of this world is a sum of its parts. It is here that the girls are all a part of something much greater.” The camp is a learning opportunity, but it also helps campers speak up and be heard. Read sixteen of their posts here.
The WiSci camp was a part of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, opening doors to help adolescent girls complete their educations. The WiSci STEAM camp collaboration was a great example of a public-private partnership model that can be applied across sectors and regions. The First Lady of Rwanda spoke at the program’s graduation.
From July 25-August 15, 120 talented high-school girls from across eight African countries and the U.S. participated in a three-week program at the Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda. Each camper was selected for her demonstrated interest in STEAM and leadership record.
Pioneered by the U.S. Department of State, the UN Foundation Girl Up campaign, the AOL Charitable Foundation, Intel and Microsoft and supported by Meridian International Center among others, the WiSci curriculum was developed in partnership with science and technology industry leaders- AOL Charitable Foundation, Microsoft and Intel. The curated program featured hands-on experiential learning and a wide array of opportunities in the STEAM fields. The formal curriculum was led by Microsoft and Intel employees and included a week each on Computer Science, Robotics and Design, Art & Culture, with time during the third week to work on small group projects. AOL Inc. enhanced the program's curriculum in the third week with expertise in technology, digital marketing and training on how to pitch the products & apps that the girls were creating during this third week.
Each partner approached the camp through a different lens but with the same goal: to support the empowerment and continuing education of girls. Together, our impact was exponentially greater than anything achievable by merely one organization or company alone.
As a founding partner, the AOL Charitable Foundation provided an initial grant to the UN Foundation to support the program and worked with AOL Inc. to provide leadership development, arts and cross-cultural learning. AOL enhanced the program curriculum by leveraging its resources as a media technology company to amplify the girls’ stories, experiences and takeaways. AOL employees on the ground led a digital marketing curriculum, mentored the girls and worked with them to publish blogs to The Huffington Post.
To quote, Sisipho Zinja, a current first year student at the African Leadership Academy, “diversity provides an environment for personal growth.” Girl Up Ambassador, Ciara Donoghue wrote that she hoped to “be an advocate for my sisters around the world.”
AOL and Intel captured original video footage and produced shareable videos to be hosted along with editorial coverage on AOL.com, The Huffington Post and MAKERS.com. Check out two videos here.
By leveraging AOL’s own assets, the company lent its platforms and reach, ensuring that the camp’s impact would continue to reverberate for years to come. In terms of the personal impact of our media coverage, just imagine being a published high school student via one of the world’s most popular news sources. Let’s just say it can’t be bad for personal confidence and career aspirations.
We invite funders who are interested in fostering higher achievement for girls in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to join us. Interested in learning more or hearing about what’s next? Reach out to Foundation@teamaol.com or follow us @AOLCSR.