BY Amanda L. Alaniz
This summer, UTRGV biology major Gabriela Rodriguez will be inspiring young girls to transform the world through STEM.
While her fellow classmates will be at the beach or on vacation, Rodriguez will conduct a STEM camp with Girlstart, an organization that focuses on increasing girls’ interest and engagement in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Rodriguez, a Laredo native and UTeach RGV student, was selected for an internship opportunity as a co-leader of a Girlstart Summer Camp in the Rio Grande Valley and North Texas. As part of the internship, Rodriguez is required to coordinate a STEM camp in the Valley during the first two weeks of June, and another in Dallas the remaining weeks of the month.
The initiative behind Girlstart resonates and coincides with one of Rodriguez’s biggest passions.
“I’ve always loved science, even as a kid,” she said. “The older I got, the more my passion for science grew. I want to be able to teach the newer generation and inspire them to have a love of science.”
Rodriguez said the theme of the camp is outer space, and the curriculum includes learning how plants grow in space and how to code a robot to perform tasks. Students from Mission CISD and McAllen ISD will participate in the Valley camps from June 4 to June 15.
For Rodriguez, co-leading a Girlstart Summer Camp is a first, but it isn’t her first internship with the organization, which she has been involved with for two years as part of the Girlstart After School program.
During the fall and spring semesters, the UTRGV senior participates in the after-school program, visiting various schools throughout the Valley and delivering fun, informal STEM programs to small groups of students.
Rodriguez said her goal is to become a high school biology teacher, and being involved with Girlstart has equipped her with the tools she will need to be an excellent educator.
“Right now, I’m teaching elementary students through Girlstart, which is so different from teaching high school students. But I like the fact that every student is different, and from that you learn,” she said. “I’m getting more experience for teaching and how to maintain a classroom.”
Girlstart has been rewarding for Rodriguez, she said, and she is proud to be part of such an inspiring program for young girls. She has shed a few tears, too, realizing how much her after-school program students have evolved from being quiet, to expressive and able to understand the STEM activities she presents.
Also this summer, Rodriguez will be working on her teaching certification exams and hopes to start her clinical teaching during the fall semester.
Girlstart’s mission is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally recognized STEM education programs. The program aspires to be the national leader in designing and implementing innovative, high-quality, informal STEM education programs that inspire girls to transform our world. Through its comprehensive programming, Girlstart provides a year-round, intensive suite of STEM education programs for K-12 girls. Girlstart’s core programs foster STEM skills development, an understanding of the importance of STEM as a way to solve the world’s major problems, and an interest in STEM electives, majors and careers.