Talk about girl power: Celebrating the GEMS and TinkerBelles

 Two members of the CYC GEMS club work on a project during a recent field trip to the Jane Addams Resource Corporation.

Two members of the CYC GEMS club work on a project during a recent field trip to the Jane Addams Resource Corporation.

Since early last year, CYC has been cultivating GEMS. No, we don’t mean rare stones… but our GEMS are certainly precious.

GEMS stands for “Girls Excelling in Math and Science.” Since the GEMS club began early last year, more than 25 girls and young women (ages 10-13) have delved into science, engineering, math, and technology subjects while exploring STEM career fields.

According to a recent study conducted by the National Science Foundation, only 11.2% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, 8.2% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and 4.1% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to women of color. Additionally, women of color comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.

 CYC STEM program manager Steven Willis works with a GEMS club member on a rocket project.

CYC STEM program manager Steven Willis works with a GEMS club member on a rocket project.

Women and young girls across the nation have traditionally faced barriers when trying to enter lucrative STEM fields, but the young women and girls CYC serves face an even deeper gap caused by the impact of poverty. The girls in these communities, the majority of whom are African American or Hispanic, often lack access to educational opportunities that would encourage them to explore STEM subjects.

These STEM programming initiatives are possible thanks to the generous support of organizations like the Chicago Foundation for Women, the Zakat Foundation of America, and donors like you.

In addition to our GEMS club, another all-girls STEM club, the “TinkerBelles,” formed at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center. Through their participation, the young girls in these programs are encouraged to explore STEM careers, experiment, and go on educational field trips to broaden their perspectives.

Recently, the GEMS went to an industrial kitchen in Chicago’s Southside. Khali Smith, the Chief Operating Officer of Lou’s Gourmet Sweets, met the young women to teach them about the math and science that goes into baking. The youth learned how different measurements and certain types of ingredients work together to yield a variety of outcomes.

“When we cook at the Center we don’t always get to do everything… but [at the industrial kitchen] we got to do everything and be in a real kitchen and feel like a real chef cooking,” said Analiz, a GEMS club member at CYC-Fellowship House.  

 CYC GEMS club member Analiz, right, cracks an egg open during a recent field trip to an industrial kitchen in Chicago. The girls learned about the science that goes into baking.

CYC GEMS club member Analiz, right, cracks an egg open during a recent field trip to an industrial kitchen in Chicago. The girls learned about the science that goes into baking.

Clarence Hogan, the Maker Lab Specialist at CYC-Epstein, said providing these opportunities to youth, especially young women, gives them a broader perspective of what their future career could be.

“In the communities we serve, young black and brown kids don’t always get to experiment and resources like this are rare,” Clarence said. “But this maker space allows us to do that. We want our young black and brown kids to see themselves as innovators. They deserve to experiment and push the limits of what they think is possible. That’s why saturation is important; I want our young girls to feel comfortable to tinker.”