Name: Aashi Mendpara
Location: Orlando, Florida
Education: High School Junior
What led you to found Girls Got STEAM?
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have been in an environment that valued STEAM and offered an abundance of resources to pursue my interests. I went to a school that specialized in STEAM, many adults in my life were in science and engineering fields, and I had multiple role models that encouraged me to explore my passion. I began to notice how lucky I was, in that I had access to so many opportunities. Many students in my community were unable to explore STEAM, especially girls and underserved students, due to expenses and limited educators. In my sophomore year of high school, I began to hold free workshops and events for students to attend in hopes that some would be able to find their love for STEAM just as I had. I quickly wanted to start developing something that people all over the world can use, and with that, GirlsGotSTEAM was born.
Did you face any hurdles in getting it started? If so, what did you learn?
Since GirlsGotSTEAM is still in the works, we are always facing and overcoming many obstacles. A big issue that we are constantly fighting is outreach. Connecting with groups and organizations can be a challenge, especially when your efforts are followed by rejection. Nonetheless, I think the biggest lesson I have learned is to never give up. As cliche as it sounds, I have found that having that thought in mind can allow you to overcome any obstacle you are faced with. The biggest hurdle I personally face is wanting to live up to my own expectations and vision. The pressure of wanting everything to go perfectly is something that I constantly deal with. However, I learned that having a support system can make a huge difference. Being surrounded by people that I can openly share my thoughts and feelings with has tremendously helped progress not only GirlsGotSTEAM, but my personal life as well.
Tell us about its mission and goals?
GirlsGotSTEAM is a non-profit on a mission to increase girls and underprivileged youth in STEAM fields through workshops, experimentation, and mentorship. Our team creates an affordable, easy and fun curriculum for STEAM educators around the world! In addition, we have a program to partner local students with mentors that can assist them in anything they need. The goal is to empower underserved communities worldwide because students that lack sufficient resources are those who are unable to build fundamental skills for the future, especially in STEAM. Although GirlsGotSTEAM does focus on STEAM careers, we strive to encourage students to pursue whatever they have a passion for, in hopes that we can provide them with that small push to do so.
Where do you see or hope to see the organization in 5 years?
Currently, we are working to partner with schools in Florida, but the goal is to collaborate with educators and schools all over the country, and more importantly, worldwide! We hope to see our curriculum being used in schools all over the world to empower unserved students no matter their location. Furthermore, I would love to continue growing our team to create a group of strong and hardworking individuals striving for equitable education.
How can our readers get involved?
The GirlsGotSTEAM team is always looking for people who are passionate about STEAM, education, and advocacy! If you are looking to join the team or be a mentor for young students, follow the link in our Instagram. We would love to have you on our team!
Why is it important for high school (and college) students to get involved in advocacy efforts?
It’s simple, we can change the world. The power and wisdom students hold is immeasurable and if we take a minute to imagine the strength youth activists hold together, it is indescribable. We must remember, as activists, we are the future leaders and it is crucial we join our voices and fight the problems we face today to prevent the burden for future generations.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
I am incredibly fortunate to have multiple people that I can look up to, not only in person but online as well. Many individuals have had an enormous impact on my life and I am so grateful that I had them. However, I don’t have a set person that I go to for support. Fortunately, my teachers, families, and friends have been my support system through thick and thin. They have always been there for me and I am constantly inspired by their determination and hard work.
Any message you want to send to all the young women out there strategizing to reach their education and career goals?
Always remember, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Find your passion and strive to accomplish everything you dream because nothing can stop you when you are determined. Also, find your supporters. Having others that share the same passion as you and empower you to succeed are incredibly important. And most importantly, breathe. Everything will be okay.
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you?