Across the country, biologists are conducting research that will lead to better vaccines, mathematicians are enhancing the way we watch movies, and engineers are transforming how we connect online. Women are leading many of these breakthroughs.
But far too often, our girls don’t realize what’s possible. Through our programs at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), we are helping young women recognize and reach their full potential.
As the CEO of CNCS, which administers AmeriCorps and other national service programs, I see young women launching smart phone app-building teams, competing in robotics competitions, and creating partnerships between after-school programs and tech firms.
As the number of STEM-related courses increases in schools, cultivating interest in these disciplines is particularly valuable for our girls, who are sometimes pushed to the side or discouraged from pursuing careers in science or engineering.
The STEM AmeriCorps program seeks to be part of this effort.
President Obama announced STEM AmeriCorps during last year’s White House Science Fair. In this program, our AmeriCorps members work alongside volunteers to improve students’ academic performances in STEM coursework.
By supporting these initiatives and others, we are reminding girls that opportunities for leadership do not belong to boys or a chosen few. Rather, the title of leader is one they can and should claim ownership of because they show it every day.
RoboDoves, an all-girls robotics team in Baltimore, Maryland, is an example of this.
Eighteen-year-old Keimmie Booth says that being a part of RoboDoves changed the way she thinks about math.
“I always liked mathematics but didn’t link that with being a part of robotics,” she said. “I got more than just technology skills—the program has helped me develop business skills as well.”
An AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at MOST (Maryland Out of School Time Network) helped the RoboDoves team raise enough funding to build a robot and attend world championships in St. Louis. And for Keimmie, the experience has reinforced her belief in giving back. She now volunteers at the Baltimore City Robotics Center where she mentors and teaches elementary school students.
The story of Keimmie reminds us that when we empower young women, we are empowering our communities too.
While studies show that our universities are producing more female than male graduates, it is essential that we reach our girls earlier—long before they enter a college classroom. Because as President Obama said during his recent State of the Union Address, “when women succeed, America succeeds.” It has been my privilege to work with the President, our partners throughout the Administration, as well as leaders in the nonprofit and corporate sectors as we champion the cause of transforming our schools and communities—one girl at a time.
CNCS supports more than 70 other programs via AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund that positively impact the futures of women and girls in more than 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Wendy Spencer is the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.