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AAUW Tech Trek Camp Inspires Girls to STEM Careers

AAUW Tech Trek Camp Inspires Girls to STEM Careers

Hannah Mathew’s parents thought the opportunity for their daughter to attend the American Association of University Women’s summer Tech Trek Science and Math Camp for Girls was so important that they cancelled their July vacation to India, paying a $1,000 trip cancellation fee, when Hannah was awarded a 2016 camp scholarship.

Mathew, along with Melanie Gichane and Maria Kozar–all eighth graders at Santa Clara Unified’s Peterson Middle School, were among 80 Bay Area girls who lived on the Stanford University campus July 3 through 9, participating in hands-on science and math workshops led by women professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

“We’re all about empowering women,” says AAUW member Ilse Pollet at the Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch fall picnic September 10 at Raynor Park, Sunnyvale. A highlight of the picnic was getting feedback from some of the Tech Trek girls and their families.

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“It was her first time away from home; she was so excited,” says Mathew’s mother, Sheena Mathew. “She loves math and science, and the camp was at Stanford. The opportunity is priceless. I’m thankful to the AAUW for supporting girls. It was really a big inspiration, a wonderful experience.”

The Sunnyvale-Cupertino AAUW branch, which also serves Santa Clara, sponsored eight girls from Santa Clara, San Jose and Cupertino schools. Tech Trek began in Palo Alto in 1998, expanded to ten camps on eight college campuses in California, then went national in 2013.

“It’s a way of getting girls interested in science and math careers at an early age,” says Janeen Robsertson, Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch president.

“We worked hard and learned to believe in yourself, so you can achieve anything,” says Hannah Mathew. “Girls can achieve the things that men can if we put our minds to it.”

Melanie Gichane especially liked hearing presentations by professional women with successful STEM careers.

“They opened me to new possibilities. I’m thinking of being a microbiologist now and of attending Stanford or Harvard,” says Gichane.

“Camp opened my mind to opportunities in the science world,” agrees Maria Kozar. “It was really cool when the women presented, listening to their backgrounds.”

“We’re thankful to AAUW that they do this,” says Gichane’s father, Alfred Gichane. “It shows the girls that there are no limits, no boundaries in science. It was a very good experience for my daughter.”

“The experience was empowering,” says Gichane’s mother, Grace Gichane.

The girls are invited by their seventh grade math and science teachers to apply for a camp scholarship. They write an essay on an assigned topic about science and math. Based on their essays, select girls are then interviewed by the AAUW Education Equity Committee.

The Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch AAUW pays $850 of the $900 cost for each camper it sponsors, and families pay the $50 balance. The AAUW funds the scholarships through cash donations and by collecting and selling used books. Sunnyvale-Cupertino Branch information: svcupt-ca.aauw.net.

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