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The Women in Science “WiSci” Girls’ STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design, & Mathematics) Camps are an opportunity for girl-identifying youth from around the world to connect, learn, and grow. WiSci fosters a safe, supportive, and unique cross-cultural environment for all campers to explore their interests in STEAM and develop their leadership skills. To date, WiSci STEAM Camps have impacted 900+ youth from 30 different countries.
Eight in-person camps were hosted in Kosovo, Oregon, Estonia, Namibia, Georgia, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda, two virtual camps were hosted in Morocco and Central America, and one hybrid camp was hosted across Southeast Asia. These camps are made possible thanks to our public sector partners, including the U.S. Department of State and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as private sector partners, such as Intel, Google, Microsoft, NASA, Bechtel, Caterpillar, and more!
The academic and professional achievements of WiSci Alumni are remarkable. Marking the milestone of our 11th WiSci Camp, Girl Up spoke with three alumni from the inaugural WiSci Camp in Rwanda to celebrate their accomplishments and the impact WiSci has had on their lives in the seven years since.
Ileana Valdez recently graduated from Yale University with a degree in Computer Science and is currently a Software Engineer at Dropbox in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ileana saw her time at the WiSci STEAM Camp as essential in catalyzing her desire to work within the field. She credits the time she spent at WiSci as being incredibly influential in how she charted her educational and career goals. Ileana says she’s used the lessons learned during camp countless times, particularly the networking and presentation skills she acquired. These skills even came in handy when she was negotiating her first work contract. Ileana was recently featured in a BBC short film where she spoke about the impact WiSci had on transforming her dreams of working in tech into a reality and how she’s encouraging other girls to also “dream STEAM.”
Garima Singh—a high school student at the time of WiSci Rwanda—is now a machine learning engineer at SparkCognition, an artificial intelligence start-up based in Austin, Texas. She joined SparkCognition after graduating from Yale University with a degree in Neuroscience and Computer Science. Her position requires her to use the technology and coding skills she developed in school and during WiSci Rwanda. Garima specifically credited WiSci for cementing the idea in her mind that women really do belong in STEM, especially in technological fields.
Claire Messina, currently based in Turkey, is the Membership Community Manager at Startup Grind, a global community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. Claire joined Startup Grind after earning a degree in Environmental Studies and Global Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara. In her current position, Claire connects various startup companies with each other, many of which are in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare, sustainability, information technology, and other STEM areas.
Ileana, Garima, and Claire consider their WiSci experiences as transformational. “WiSci gave me the confidence to pursue the dreams that I didn’t think I could achieve, and because of that confidence, I have achieved them,” says Ileana. Outside of STEM skills, Claire and Garima highlighted the growth they experienced because of WiSci Rwanda, reminiscing on the leadership development sessions as opportunities for growth and connection within a cross-cultural environment.
All three of the alumni campers shared a common, impactful memory from the camp: the two-day orientation in Washington D.C. The orientation was an opportunity for all the U.S.-based campers to bond before arriving in Rwanda. “Being with a group of women who have similar interests was incredibly special,” Claire explained. “It was a great way to get the camp started on a good note.” Ileana also noted that presenting her prototype research to the First Lady of Rwanda was an experience “she’ll never forget.”
The learnings and memories Ileana, Garima, and Claire shared are just some of the amazing experiences campers gain at WiSci STEAM camps! Click here for more information about our upcoming WiSci camps and how YOU can join!