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Syracuse University's "It Girls" Overnight Retreat aims to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields

October 10, 2019

 

High school junior and senior girls from all over the country came to Syracuse University for an overnight retreat focused on STEM activities.

 

In a room decked out in hot-pink and orange balloons and decorations, some high school girls at the It Girls Overnight Retreat didn’t quite know what to expect, despite having itineraries printed on the back of their name tags. Nor did they know each other.

 

The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University hosted around 100 high school junior and senior girls for the ninth annual It Girls Overnight Retreat held Oct. 6-7.

 

The high schoolers hailed from places like Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and New Jersey, as well as New York. Students with GPAs of 3.4 or higher, on a 4.0 scale, were eligible to apply for the retreat by writing a 250-word essay, according to the It Girls website.

 

The program aims to recruit girls to STEM fields, said It Girls program director Stephanie Worden. She added that representation of women in fields like science, technology, engineering and math is important for decision-making at companies, nonprofits and organizations.

 

“It’s really about giving girls the confidence they need to pursue things that are a little bit unknown,” Worden said. “I think that makes the difference, the ability to really think about things from a different perspective and know that they have a voice and they have value in all spaces.”

 

The students, called It Girls, attend workshops and participate in team-building activities and a hands-on academic challenge during the 27-hour stay on campus. Social media influencer Margot Lee, an iSchool minor, is this year’s Celebration Dinner speaker. She spoke about the importance of social media influencers pursuing college education at the dinner on Sunday night.

Jeff Rubin, an associate professor of practice in the iSchool, teaches an introductory class on information technology, IST 195, on Monday mornings which the retreat attendees will sit in during their stay.

 

 

 

More than 90 girls out of the approximately 600 girls who have attended an It Girls retreat have gone on to attend SU, according to the It Girls website. Some of these former It Girls now volunteer at the annual retreats.

 

Anika Medrano, a retreat volunteer and freshman in the iSchool, attended the two-day event last year as a high school senior. Medrano said her mother, an SU alumnae, discovered the It Girls retreat and encouraged her to apply.

Medrano said she wanted to help other high schoolers attending to have the positive experience she had. She added that attending the IST 195 class at the retreat solidified her interest in attending the iSchool at SU.

 

“Just being in that class and being in that college setting, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to be here,’” she said.

 

Lisa Pugh, a senior in the iSchool, also said that attending the retreat reaffirmed her decision to consider attending the iSchool. She said this will be her third-year volunteering at the retreat.

 

Pugh is also the former president of the It Girls Alumnae Group, which connects girls who went on the retreat and then decided to attend SU. This year, the group is transitioning from a “club” styled organization to an alumnae network and will no longer have someone with an official president title, Pugh said.

 

Maya Alston, a senior in the iSchool and the logistics manager of the retreat, went to an It Girls retreat her senior year of high school. When she applied for the retreat, she was interested in business and technology but didn’t know much about the iSchool. However, following her experience at the retreat, she wanted to attend, Alston said.

 

The It Girls Overnight Retreat culminates with an It Girls speak-out event, Worden said. At this closing ceremony, the students have the opportunity to get up on stage and speak about how the retreat impacted them.

Pugh said this was her favorite part of the retreat. She said it was empowering and that she loved hearing about the other girls’ experiences.

 

The It Girls Overnight Retreat benefits high school girls by giving them the confidence needed to enter STEM fields, which may seem daunting at first, Pugh said.

 

“The program just makes it really known that we are a great big body of females who are doing great things and blazing trails,” Pugh said.

Curated from: Mandy Kranack

 

If you know of any cool groups that are exposing teens to STEM related experiences, please let us know on your fav social media networks so we can put the spot light on them. 

 

 

 

 

 

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