Circle of Women 2015- Laura Robinson
Hi. My name is Laura Robinson. Four years ago today I was 18, in the first year of college, and stood on this stage and shared how the YWCA made an impact on my life. Today, I’m here to give you an update on how the YWCA continues to influence and shape me.
When I was in fourth grade, my mom enrolled me in a YWCA program focused on math and science for girls. It was here that I learned that math can be fun and that I’m pretty good at it. We took many field trips – like once to a place where we built things with women plumbers, carpenters and other tradeswomen. I learned about different cultures, how to budget money, and that women can do anything that men can do.
It was through the YWCA that I realized I don’t always have to be shy. I do consider myself a shy person, but my Girls Group – which met once a week — gave me the confidence and encouragement I needed to step out of my shell. It became a consistent force within my life and always cheered me up.
In college, I needed to form my own communities and my classes were a good place to start. If I couldn’t find a study group within my class, I would start up my own. The YWCA allowed me to realize that having a consistent community in my life gave me more confidence and helped me be more successful in school.
People often ask me “Laura, how did you become a leader?” I never know how to answer this question because I don’t really consider myself a leader. Here are some examples from my life that may suggest otherwise.
After my speech at Circle of Women four years ago, I was asked to be the commencement speaker at Laura Jeffrey Academy, which is an all-girls charter middle school focused on math and science. I nervously and proudly agreed to speak to their first graduating class. I told them how I remembered being nervous in the transition from middle to high school and to instead use their excitement to guide their experience. I shared with them advice I learned at the YWCA, encouraging them to be themselves and limit themselves to nothing.
I later talked to middle school girls at a YWCA Girls Inc. group about college. I talked about my many year involvement with the YWCA, what I did to prepare for college, and shared stories from my college experiences.
During college, Christa Perkins, my long time YWCA youth counselor and dear friend today, encouraged me to apply for the first competitive, national Girls Inc. Alumnae scholarship. I wrote an essay about how my YWCA girls groups impacted my life and I asked my professors to write recommendations. Amazingly, I did receive that scholarship for $15,000. I used this money to pay for college and study abroad in Ecuador, learning how the rural population used their limited water resources.
And then…… there is this patent that I have pending. While in high school me and my friend, Ida, redesigned an emergency medical device that more easily administers glucose to diabetics. We filed a patent and recently we heard that a few of our claims were rejected. We did not find that acceptable, so we rewrote the claims and resubmitted our application. Today, we have a patent pending.
In May I will graduate from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geoengineering and a minor in Horticulture. Through the YWCA, I had an opportunity to go to camp where I realized how much I love nature. Geoengineering, which is the study of how math and geology are used to understand and guide human interactions with the earth, is the merging of my love for math and nature into one degree. Specifically, I’m drawn to questions about water – where it comes from, where we store it, and how we preserve it. I’m considering a career in groundwater and stormwater management.
I recently applied for a job with the new YWCA Girls Inc. summer program called Eureka. The University of Minnesota is a partner hosting the girls for five weeks of programming on campus this summer. It will educate young women about STEM careers, be a support system throughout high school and help prepare them for college. I hope to work with the Eureka program, so I can have a hands-on experience changing the lives of girls like the YWCA did for me so many years ago.
After summer I will be focused on putting my degree to good use. So if any of you is looking to hire a hardworking, engineering woman, look no further!
Sometimes I try to picture where I would be today if I was never involved with the YWCA. The YWCA has been a part of my life for so long that it’s almost impossible to think of myself independent of it. I’m so grateful for my YWCA girls groups. It’s possible I may never leave.