As I write this second edition of Shane’s Lane, I am celebrating my one-year anniversary at Girlstart—and can’t help but look back on a year filled with hugs, smiles, hard decisions, transitions, welcoming new hires, and so much more. There are days when I have conversations that feel like I’ve been at Girlstart for years, but then I get asked how long I have served as executive director and I realize…it’s been the quickest twelve months ever!
The three overarching goals I’ve been working towards with my team have been empowering more girls to pursue STEM, increasing Girlstart’s visibility, and dreaming big to strengthen our future.
Empowering Girls: When asked what sets us apart from other girl-serving organizations, I proudly answer that our secret sauce is that Girlstart makes STEM fun, engaging, relevant, and not intimidating. The Girlstart ecosystem offers a wide breadth of curriculum and learning opportunities for elementary and middle school girls, as well as the young people working toward STEM careers, who serve as our STEM CREW program leaders. Over the past year, I’ve hosted visitors at showcases for our After School programs, where girls have learned about everything from electrical engineering and circuitry to video game design and coding, and seen STEM CREW make memories with our youth at Summer Camp (which holds a special place in my heart). I also got to attend our first-ever Girls in STEM Conference in North Texas (pictured below), where we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary of programming!
Increasing Visibility: Girlstart is emerging as a sought-after voice in important local and national conversations. We’ve been welcomed as a new member of the STEMM Opportunity Alliance, a White House initiative to develop a national strategy for achieving equity in STEMM, and participated in Texas Girls in STEM Day at UT Dallas thanks to State Representative Rhetta Bowers. I’ve also had the privilege of taking part in many guest speaking opportunities, ranging from an interview with the Weather Channel to a panel conversation organized by Charity Navigator. The growth in Girlstart’s visibility is also because of dynamic and dedicated volunteer leaders who help us build our networks. To support this, we’ve relaunched our Regional Councils and welcome supporters who are excited to advocate for us in North Texas, Houston, Central Texas, the East Coast, and the West Coast. If you’d like to learn more about joining Regional Councils, please email Liz@girlstart.org.
Girlstart staff with State Representative Rhetta Bowers at Texas Girls in STEM Day at UT Dallas
Dreaming Big: A recent report by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the average American elementary classroom devotes less than 20 minutes per day to science, making our out-of-school, in-depth STEM programming more vital than ever. With too many students lacking access to quality science instruction, the current science education reality in this country requires solutions like what Girlstart can offer. This year is a strategic planning year for Girlstart, meaning that we are creating goals for the next three years and defining smart growth and how to amplify our presence and impact. Pro-bono experts are working with us to identify new income channels and strengthen our financial stability. Other conversations with our staff and National Board of Directors are focused around refining our mission and vision statements and organizational values, as well as capitalizing on our competitive advantage.
Girlstart is a truly special place to work and this year members of our staff purchased their first homes, traveled to exciting destinations, welcomed new family members, and more, all while doing this amazing work. I recently got to experience a huge milestone of my own as I saw my daughter Raegan graduate from Texas Woman’s University with a degree in Psychology. She is one step closer to entering the STEM workforce and heads to graduate school in the fall to study Human Centered Design and Engineering.
I’m so thankful I get to come to work every day and inspire young girls to pursue STEM—especially those who don’t yet know that STEM is for them. I look forward to another year as your executive director and continuing this mission of empowerment together!