Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

STEM Girl Day at UT brings in students from all types of backgrounds

Naina Srivastava
A volunteer demonstrates an activity to a girl at Girl Stem Day on Saturday. The annual recruitment event, which aims to diversify STEM fields, hosts elementary and middle school students and their families.

For the past two years, Jennifer Wilborn-Verdugo and her three children have road-tripped from their home in Katy, TX, to Austin to join the flood of over 15,000 elementary and middle school students at UT as they engage in hands-on activities, demonstrations and shows exploring STEM at STEM Girl Day at UT. 

According to Women in STEM’s website, what started as an after-school event for 95 students in 2002 is now a community-wide STEM festival. Led by WiSTEM in the Division of Campus and Community Engagement at UT Austin, over 148 campus and community partners foster the largest event of its kind that celebrates Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day in the world. 

“I think every kind of student can benefit from this type of opportunity,” said Laura Terrill, UT alumna and director of STEM and Outdoor Programs for Girl Scouts of Central Texas. “Whether that student is in school, homeschooled or wherever they get their formal education, this is an informal science event designed for every kid, and I think it’s wonderful that kids have opportunities outside of their school day.” 

Wilborn-Verdugo said she began homeschooling during the pandemic and enjoys the flexibility and benefits for her family.  

“Not every kid has the same interests, and sometimes kids can prematurely get turned off by certain subjects because they’re forced to do them,” Wilborn-Verdugo said. “(In public school), they have to take the same rhythm and path that everyone else takes, … and at homeschool, we can personalize things. We want to travel too, I want my kids to see the world, and I want them to meet a lot of different people and understand that there’s a ton of opportunities out there.”

For some parents who homeschool their kids, like Dustin Jones, a father of one daughter, events and opportunities like STEM Girl Day help bridge a gap he might prove unable to fill. 

“I think as a father, there are certain things, as far as STEM goes, that I can help her with, and there are other things that I can’t,” Jones said. “I’m not a female in STEM, so I think it’s important to bring her to things that I can’t necessarily give her and let her experience that.”

Wilborn-Verdugo and her daughter believe that events like this are essential for letting kids try new things.

“I think (for) some kids, their whole life trajectory is going to change because they went to a UT STEM Girl Day,” Wilborn-Verdugo said. “It’s an opportunity for a lot of different groups to come together. … I feel like, especially girls, if they’re not exposed to something like this, they may never realize that they like it.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect the correct number of attendees and the year of the founding event. The Texan regrets this error.

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