Name: Cailin Callahan
From: Fairfax, Virginia
Grade: High School Junior
School: Robinson Secondary School
SHINE for Girls has given girls the chance to break out of the stereotype: that men are of greater value than women, that women would not be as prosperous in STEM fields. This program has given them the chance to achieve a newfound belief in their own capabilities, as well as an excitement towards math and a deeper interest in pursuing a future in STEM. With my involvement as a leader and mentor in this national organization, I have been inspired by the impacts that this changing schema of gender roles has had on each young girl I meet. Through SHINE, I have seen these girls gain the confidence that was once clouded by the pressure to meet others’ unrealistic expectations.
This unique educational program was established in an effort to empower the minds of young girls and encourage the love of education through stimulating activities. Upon learning about SHINE and its purpose, I was encouraged to get involved in this program and help spread this idea. I found an amazing opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of motivated, intelligent young girls, and meet the confident and bright-eyed leaders of the future. As a mentor, I helped organize each program, which ran for eight weeks. Throughout each program, we brainstormed different ways to incorporate math into games that would help keep the girls entertained, and choreographed a dance for the girls to perform in an attempt to stimulate their minds and build their confidence levels. After having stimulated their minds and motivating them, we separated into groups based on their skill level, which was determined through a pre-test holistically created by the mentors. This specific approach has been successful throughout each session, as girls have shown improvement ranging from ninety to nine hundred percent, and have grown more confident in themselves within the eight weeks of the program.
After witnessing the impact that this program has had on so many girls, I was inspired to take initiative and lead as a head mentor at Garfield Elementary, a local school that had taken interest in our program. The children that I met in this school impacted me more than I ever expected. In just eight weeks, I watched as girls with pessimistic views of their futures transformed into confident, driven students. Through this program, through the girls that I met and the mentors that worked by my side, I gained the confidence to make an impact on others’ lives and truly understand the difference that one person with a vision can make. By abandoning the gender gap and encouraging a love for education and learning, this program succeeded in keeping young girls from settling for a life in poverty, a life of dependence on dominant male figures. Girls have found that they truly are intelligent, and that they may do anything they put their minds to, and they may become the scientists, doctors, and engineers of the future.