Hands-on projects give girls a glimpse into careers in technology and science.

Hands-on projects give girls a glimpse into careers in technology and science. (Courtesy photo)

It’s not always easy for adolescent girls to feel “strong, smart and bold,” as Girls Inc. inspires them to be, but administrators at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) and local chapters of Girls Inc. joined forces this summer to make sure they grow up knowing they are just that.

For the third consecutive year, SBCC partnered with Girls Inc. to bring three groups of local young women to the college in July. This year, both pre-teen and teenage girls attended the program, which included campus tours and classes in chemistry, physics, math, computer science, biology and computer information systems.

From sampling DNA swabs taken from their own mouths to practicing computer coding, the girls experienced hands-on opportunities administrators hope will gear many of them toward future STEM careers. The groups were also introduced to current SBCC students and visited classrooms in session.

“The Computer Information Systems Department, along with other SBCC STEM departments, thoroughly enjoyed hosting three groups from Girls Inc. this summer,” said CIT instructor Esther Frankel.

“We believe it is important to encourage young women to pursue careers in technology, and we hope that introducing young women to technology in a fun and interactive manner will encourage them to consider a career in our field,” she said “We hope that this experience made a difference in these students’ lives.”

“With this exposure and faculty interaction, they will hopefully be more inclined to view STEM fields as a viable option,” said Adolfo Corral, SBCC STEM transfer coordinator.

“We also give them a glimpse of what SBCC has to offer by visiting places such as our costume design department, and working with our librarians as well as counselors in the Career Center,” Corral said.

“It is extremely important for young women to have this experience at this age because this is when they can start to create positive habits that will impact their education now and in the future,” said Brenda Mendoza, Girls Inc. Teen Center director, who brought 18 students from her Goleta teen center to the SBCC campus in late July.

“For many of the youth that we work with, this is their first experience setting foot on a college campus,” Mendoza said “While it’s one thing to talk about college and its requirements, having the experience firsthand makes it much more tangible.

“This allows them to begin to visualize their future self on a college campus and to see the possibilities that are available to them, especially as young women.”

“These trips to SBCC are worthwhile because they’re giving us an opportunity to realize that we can do anything,” said Yuliana, a 12-year-old Girls Inc. student. “This opportunity is helping me realize that school is the right path for me.

“I used to not want to go to college, but it has been inspiring to hear all the women professors share their stories and see all the women on campus. I can see that there is a lot of support for students and that makes me feel better about my future.

“I think every year Girls Inc. Teen Center should bring teens on campus so they can have this experience, too.”

“At Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara we are intentional about connecting our youth to STEM related programming to eventually help bridge the gender gap within STEM fields,” Mendoza said. “Our youth are the future, and their diverse perspectives will make a positive impact.”

— Luz Reyes-Martin for SBCC.