120 Years, 120 Stories: Laura's Story
A YWCA math and science program leads to career aspirations in Geological Engineering
Laura is the middle child of three sisters, and an independent and driven young woman. Back in the fourth grade, Laura started attending YWCA girls programs and learned that math could be fun. She made new friends, and together they ran an organic fruit stand, learned to use power tools and learned money-management skills. Laura has continued to pursue her love of math and science by taking engineering courses in high school and college, despite being one of only a few girls enrolled.
I first connected with the YWCA when I was in fourth grade when I enrolled in GirlPower, a math and science program for girls. GirlPower is where I learned that math can be fun and that I’m pretty good at it. Doing math outside of my school setting made it more interesting and now today, it’s my favorite subject in school.
My most memorable and meaningful field trip was to a Powergirls annual conference where girls learned about jobs in the trades and what it’s like to be a tradeswoman. Powergirls was where I first got to "play" with power tools. It completely rocked when I got to use an electric drill to build a foot rest and I realized that I really enjoy working with my hands. Powergirls showed me that there are so many professional women that have succeeded in male-dominated careers.
These experiences encouraged my interest in math and engineering and led me to take engineering classes in high school. I took a course called Digital Electronics. We started the year with three girls in a class of 28 students, and by the end of the first semester, there was me and 25 boys. I felt so out of place in this class because I knew nothing about things like "and gates," wiring circuits or flip flops. All the guys and the male teacher seemed to know this material. But I remembered Powergirls and that just because I’m a girl didn’t mean that this course wasn’t for me. I worked really hard and successfully received one of the few As given that year.
This course taught me that I can excel in male-dominated learning situations. I learned that I naturally do better and succeed when I have the mindset that I have to prove myself. I’m a competitive person and male-dominated situations bring this out in me.
In my senior year, I took the highest offered engineering course at my high school. The goal of this class was to find a problem in society and fix it with a newly engineered solution. My friend Ida and I redesigned a medical device, which we are now in the final stages of filing a provisional patent for. I could have let the fear of being the only girl in my engineering course control me, but then I probably wouldn’t have ever dreamed about filing a patent.
I’ve learned a lot about myself through different YWCA girls programs. I wonder sometimes if I would ever have learned that I am a very determined woman, or that I like math, without being in YWCA programs? Probably eventually, but because I learned these aspects about myself so early, they are a very strong part of what makes me, me. I am very thankful for the girls programming at the YWCA.