“We’re thrilled to support Tech Trek and the other organizations in Alameda, as well as almost 500 more nonprofits throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties doing essential work in the East Bay,” said Jeri Boomgaarden, spokeswoman for the East Bay Community Foundation, which is organizing the third annual East Bay Gives event.
Adele Aced, Chair of the Tech Trek committee for the Alameda branch of the AAUW told Action Alameda News that middle school girls tend to drop out of math and science programs, even if they are good at it; the purpose of the tech trek program is to keep girls in those programs.
“The program was developed at Stanford University,” Aced explained, “and involves 10 college campuses in California. Kids from the East Bay go to the Sonoma State campus for a weekly hands-on experience.”
During the week, typically in June, an all-woman team of local scientists and techies leads the girls in science studies, field trips and experiments. The program targets girls entering the eighth grade in the fall.
Aced hopes to raise the $6,000 to fund the program for six girls; the cost is $950 per participant and AAUW typically pays $900 of that, with the family paying the balance.
“But families can’t buy their way in,” Aced cautioned. “The girls have to be nominated by their science teacher. They have to write an essay, and face a committee of eight people as part of the selection process. For these girls, it’s a huge deal. This is a taste of what it’s like to go to college.”
This year’s Tech Trek campers are from Lincoln Middle School, Bay Farm School, Wood School, Alameda Community Learning Center and Nea.
Molly Clem, a talkative 14-year old Alameda girl who participated in the camp last summer, gushed about the program by telephone, with her dad at her side.
“It was stellar,” she said. “Everything was amazing. My schedule was insanely packed. On Sunday we signed in. We were in groups of 10 with people from all classes…genetics, wildlife, math, physics and invention. Monday was the first day and we had a physics core from 9 a.m. to noon.”
Clem said that in a veterinarian class, they learned how to sew up an animal. Another highlight was a nighttime star party wherein they studied the constellations.
“We learned how to pace ourselves, and write journals. More awesome than school, they had classes that everyone liked and equipment that you wouldn’t normally work with. Like $200 robots. It was awesome being at an all girls camp. Normally, a science camp is 98% boys, and I’m the only girl there, so it’s slightly awkward. There were many other girls beside me who are really into science and mathematics as much as I was,” she said.
Asked for guidance for would-be participants in the program, Clem advised, “just talk to the panel as if you’ve always been talking to them and be confident like you already know what you’re doing. Be confident, smile and know that they are your friends, and be enthusiastic. When you write your essay, make sure it’s a really great essay that’s going to make a good impression and let your passion about science, technology, engineering and math show and come through.”
On the last night, Clem said, the girls received visits from several professionals in their field. She reflected, “if they can make it in their career and be successful, I can too. It was great to see other women that succeeded, and we can follow and achieve our goals as well.”
East Bay Community Foundation aims to raise a total of $850,000 for area non-profits in its online marathon beginning at midnight on May 3rd through midnight on May 4th.