Girls have the power to change the world! That’s the guiding principle at Girlstart, an organization dedicated to empowering girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). You may recognize them from the pink entryway of their location at the corner of Anderson and Lazy Lane — but if that’s all you know about Girlstart, get ready to be inspired by the programming being created right here in our backyard.
The Girlstart mission is all about increasing girls’ interest and engagement in STEM, inspiring them to pursue new ideas and solutions to transform our world. As our country looks to healthcare professionals, immunologists and vaccine developers as national heroes, it’s a mission that may feel more meaningful now than ever.
We recently sat down for a virtual meeting with Kara Torbert, Community STEM and Summer Camp Manager, to learn more about how Wootenites can get involved with Girlstart.
Tell us about Girlstart’s mission.
About 23 years ago, Girlstart was founded with the mission of bringing accessible STEM education to the community and helping more girls have a voice in these fields. And that has been our mission ever since! We have locations in Austin, North Texas, and Houston. Girlstart also expanded programming outside of Texas four or five years ago, with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and other locations across the country.
What kind of programming do you offer year-round?
Girlstart implements programming in three ways: we partner with Title 1 schools once a week for an hour throughout the school year, offer week-long summer camp programs, and collaborate to develop community STEM programming, like the Girls in STEM Conference and events at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Here in the neighborhood, Girlstart hosts an after school program through Wooten Elementary!
How has the pandemic impacted your approach?
Our team has been really intentional about making sure we’re providing everything a girl needs. We know that not everyone in our community may have access to Wi-Fi or a laptop, so we’ve ensured that our after school and summer camp programs aren’t dependent on technology. Students are set up for success with just the materials we’re mailing to them.
They can also access a digital video library where they can follow at their own pace, on their own time, or program leaders can be available on a Zoom call — flexibility is important! We offer some virtual programming, but are working hard to ensure everyone has what they need to participate.
What’s coming up this fall?
From September to December, we’re hosting a fall season of signature STEM events called Fall into STEM. The first Thursday of each month, Starry Nights explores the night sky from the perspective of different cultures. In October, we’ll be exploring the solar system, and in November, we’ll take on the perspective of Native American mythology! All our fall events are taking place virtually to make sure everybody is staying safe. Families can RSVP and register online to receive program materials — sign up at www.STEMathome.org or learn more at www.girlstart.org.
We’re also hosting a speaker series this fall oriented towards parents and educators, with authors and experts speaking about what it’s like to raise a brave and curious girl and sharing their own experiences in the STEM field. Another favorite is our family/team trivia events, where families can sign up to compete and put their knowledge to the test!
Check out the calendar of events at the bottom of this page.
How can our community support the Girlstart mission?
Come participate in our programming! Our next event takes place September 29, when we’ll be hearing from Phyllis Fagell, LCPC, author of Middle School Matters, as part of our series on “How to Raise a Brave, Creative, and Curious Child” — you can register here.
Tickets for our fall events start at only $40 per person, and 100% of those funds are going directly to our after school programs. Attend our events, participate, and make a donation — it’s going to make a huge impact on girls in our community.