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Home > Teen Blog > August 2019 > The STEM of My Life
The STEM of My Life
Posted: 8/22/2019 11:31:43 AM

Intrepid Teen Blog
GOALS for Girls

by Lila Tan

Let me take you back to 14-year-old me when I was still in eighth grade and dreading another summer of summer school. At the time, I did not know how my life was going to change in just one summer. Currently, I am a sophomore majoring in computer science at the University at Buffalo. This summer I am an intern for the GOALS for Girls Summer Intensive (GGSI) program. I want to share insight into my past to show how I got here and how my STEM career truly began with GOALS through the following Q&A:

How did you learn about GOALS?

I have always had a stronger pull towards math and science classes since I started school. I always excelled or did better in those classes than humanities. I even became an honors math student in eighth grade. My science teacher, Naje, told me about a program called Greater Opportunities Advancing Leadership & Science for Girls (aka GOALS for Girls) that took place at the Intrepid Museum and he encouraged me to apply for it. He also offered to write a recommendation as part of the application process for the program. Therefore, I decided to go for it as an opportunity to try something new that was of interest to me while also getting out of summer school for another consecutive summer. I still remember getting that email about my acceptance into the program and how ecstatic I was over getting to experience something different for a change during the summer of 2014.

How has being in GOALS as a participant impacted your future?

Being in the program, I was exposed to different areas of STEM that were out there. It officially kick started my passion into pursuing a STEM career for my future. It solidified my interest in continuing to learn more about math and science beyond school. I also got to form many great friendships with girls in my cohort. I still keep in contact with some of them and many are doing amazing things with the Intrepid Museum or other organizations. At the end of the program, I was more confident in myself and in my choices to keep exploring the type of science that I wanted to learn about so I can make changes in the world.

How different is it for you to now be an intern for the GOALS program?

GOALS was a monumental part of my life in discovering who I am and STEM is a big part of me. To be able to experience such an amazing program is a gift that I know many do not get so I am very grateful. When I was looking for jobs for the summer after finishing my freshman year of college, I found out about a position to work as an intern for the GOALS program and immediately decided to apply. I knew I wanted to give back somehow and knew what went into making the experience great for the girls. In terms of my experience so far, I saw just how much preparation is needed to educate and provide fun for the girls. I am more appreciative of the staff that put in the work when I was in the program, as well as the current staff, and enjoyed working together to deliver an awesome summer to the current cohort. Getting to the ship early in the morning and preparing can be tiresome but it is rewarding in the end to see the girls have fun during trips and activities, and reading their journals to see how excited they are. Knowing that the payoff could be pushing more girls to be in STEM and closing the gender gap is all I could ever wish for.

How has GOALS helped you after the program ended?

After the summer of 2014, I learned how essential programs like these are for instilling knowledge and what I wanted to do for my future. This then pushed me to apply to more programs to learn about different science topics. One of the topics that I really liked was technology. I did CodeNow workshops in 2014 and 2016 to get a closer look into how computer science is applied in the real world. I did an NYU summer program called GenCyber Computer Science for Cyber Security (CS4CS) in 2015 which increased my interest in computer science. I even joined InvenTeam at my high school where we created a prototype of a vacuum that would collect the trash on subway tracks. Our team’s work received recognition and our prototype was showcased at the National Science Fair at the White House and each member received an award from the club’s mentors. This all eventually led me to pursuing a career in computer science.

The Intrepid Museum education staff were also awesome enough to recommend more programs to continue doing work at the Museum. I interned as a junior navigator in 2015 and as a senior navigator in 2017 and taught the public about a variety of things related to the Intrepid like buoyancy. Another program I got to participate in with the Museum was the Youth Leadership Institute where I got to learn more about college and career readiness.

Do you have any advice for the girls in the program or any girls looking to wish to join GGSI (or any STEAM program)?

My advice would be to go for it. Don’t be afraid of rejection or failure because you can learn from it and it makes you stronger in the end. The rewards of following your passion for STEM are amazing and as a female you are breaking the glass ceiling or going against the stereotypes that are a part of society. That in itself is so powerful. For computer science especially, I believe that this field has a lot of potential regardless of the job you end up in because technology will forever be integrated in all of our lives. Being part of this field will give me the freedom to achieve whatever I want in my future. I have heard of many women and even the mentors we had for GOALS saying that they wished they knew of this program when they were 14 or 15 so they could have been part of it. So just go for any opportunity you see. You never know what that opportunity can bring or the impact it can have on you.

As a last note, what ultimately inspired this blog post was a moment during a recent trip I took with the staff and girls to SIMS Municipal Recycling Center in Brooklyn. The lady who led the workshop there gave a presentation about the role of SIMS in the recycling process and taught us more about how to recycle. It got me thinking about how important technology is for solving issues like the overwhelming amount of trash our country creates and other big issues like climate change. We need more girls to create better solutions. I hope this post can inspire other girls or women to help others and ignite a passion to find whatever it is they love that can enable them to create change. I found the root of my life to be STEM and hope others can find their passion too. Those roots will then grow into something beautiful in our world.