Latina Girls Make Connections to STEM At Conference
(Elgin, IL December 9, 2011) Judson University was the site of the first “Adelante” Moving Forward with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Conference for middle school Latina girls. Approximately 85 middle school Latinas and their mothers spent a day learning about career opportunities in STEM, participating in hands on botany and computer activities and discussing the relevance of “The House on Mango Street” and family relationships to their future success.
Judson University, Elgin Community College, American Association of University Women, League of United Latin American Citizens and U-46 all participated in the event.
“On the surface it may look like we are separate groups, but we all have the same goals—of educating our children and helping them become our future leaders—through education. In a modern and increasingly technologically focused world, mastery of science will be an important part of becoming those leaders,” states Christine Starzynski, a Judson professor and long-time LULAC member.
Together these groups provided an agenda that was comprised of panel discussions made up of women who had built their careers in the STEM areas giving the group a snapshot of the challenges and rewards of their choices. The remainder of the day, girls and their moms rotated into three sessions:
1. Career Cruising: Carol DePue, CTE Coordinator, provided online survey that helps determine career areas based on students’ interests and strengths.
2. Terrarium Project: Anna Cruz, Canton Middle School ELL Teacher provided a hands-on science make and take project of creating a terrarium that involved environmental science, and nurturing and care of terrariums but also taking care of themselves.
3. Our Journey: Lizette Beltran, a BHS student in the STEM track encouraged students to pursue classes in this field; Nelida Uribe, ELL teacher at Larkin High School shared her academic journey and spoke to moms about how to support their girls by allowing them to participate in extra curricular activities; and Gina Crespo, ELL Coordinator at U-46 shared selections from House on Mango Street written by Sandra Cisneros to motivated girls to feel empowered to write their own story.
The girls and their mothers also had the opportunity to spend time with mentors who are college students from Judson and ECC.
“It meant so much to middle school girls and their mothers to talk with Latinas who are enjoying the college experience and doing well academically and socially,” states Dr. Carol Cowles, Dean of Student Services and Development at ECC.
Jo Ann Armenta, spokesperson for LULAC Council #5236 noted that “Our local LULAC Council is proud to be a part of this important imitative that will not end with just one session but will continue on over several months to capture the imagination of young Latinas to consider pursuing a career in the sciences.”
While the conference was designed to benefit the middle school students, Margaret Keen, Diversity Chair for AAUW’s Elgin branch, remarked that the volunteers from her organization were particularly touched by the “young participants and their mothers as the filed out at the end of the day clutching their science projects and saying they hoped to see us again in February.”
The conference ended with a reminder from Robert M. Maciver to all girls and moms: “When you educate a man you educate a human being. When you educate a woman, you educate a family."