The Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which includes Santa Clara, selected Santa Clara seventh graders Sofia Kritikopoulos from Buchser Middle School and Olivia Wallace from Peterson Middle School to attend Tech Trek, a summer science and math camp for girls.
Concerned about a 1991 study indicating that girls tend to drop out of science and math classes while in middle school and hoping to counter the trend, the AAUW Palo Alto Branch launched the first Tech Trek Science and Math Camp for Girls at Stanford University in 1998. The program, which targets girls entering the eighth grade, has since expanded to 10 camps on eight college campuses across California and went national in 2013.
Locally, 80 girls selected by Silicon Valley area AAUW branches will live on the Stanford University campus in July for a week of hands-on science and math workshops led by women professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
Wallace’s science teacher, Nancy Fohner, invited her to apply to attend the camp. She had to write an essay on the topic “How Science and Math Affect Us in Our Daily Lives.” Based on her essay, Wallace was invited for a personal interview and is one of eight girls sponsored by the Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch, which also selected two girls each from Cupertino, Sunnyvale, and San Jose.
“It’s an awesome opportunity,” says Wallace, who enjoys sports and wrote her essay about how nutrition and hydration can help improve sports performance. “I enjoy science because there are always new things to learn about. You can never stop learning.”
“I’m really excited,” says Kritikopoulos, whose math teacher, Shahrzad Amina, encouraged her to apply. “I’m interested in histology. You prepare tissue on slides for pathologists to view.” Kritikopoulos learned about the career through participation in the Santa Clara Unified School District GAINS Program (Girls Achieving in Non-Traditional Subjects).
Except for a $50 fee that families must pay, the Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch AAUW pays the remaining $900 cost for each camper it sponsors through cash donations from individuals and organizations such as the Cupertino Rotary and by collecting and selling used books.
Once a month, Education Equity Committee members gather for “ISBN parties” to sort and ship books to book scouters (companies that buy used books). Also, they have occasional garage book sales. In April the book sorters met at the Santa Clara home of Joan Kurtz, a retired science teacher who taught in Santa Clara for 28 years.
“Our basic goal is to improve the lives of women educationally. It’s a chance to help your community,” says Kurtz, who has been an AAUW member for about 10 years and enjoys socializing with friends she has made at social interest gatherings that focus, for example, on bridge, films, food, and, of course, books.
“The AAUW appeals to me because of my interest in helping young women to excel. Tech Trek is our primary mission,” says member Lois Grant. “I like to be involved in something that makes a difference in the world.”
The overall AAUW mission (www.aauw.org) is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Contact local Tech Trek coordinator Mary Bufton through the Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch website: www.aauw-sv-cupt.org.