Empowering young girls to dream big, believe bigger, and know you belong
The impact of STEM education on changing lives and communities
by Linda Henry
It's an honor to spotlight a nonprofit meeting the challenge of empowering young girls, nurturing dreams, fostering self-belief, and instilling a sense of belonging that can turn those dreams into reality.
Selected as our fourth Sponsor X and featured on the McLaren F1 cars at the 2023 United States Grand Prix, Girlstart is a nonprofit organization that equips young girls to dream as big as they can. They introduce those who identify as girls, who might be discouraged from studying, exploring, or otherwise uninvited, to participate in the STEM world through innovative, nationally recognized informal education.
Dream big: the sky's not the limit, it's just the beginning
Remember when you were young and you thought you could be anything? In sixth grade, our end-of-year assignment was to list three things we wanted to be when we grew up. My goals were to be the first female astronaut, president, or NFL head football coach. Given how long ago that was, it's sad to think a woman has held only one of those careers.
Shane Woods thought she could be a fashion designer, a ballerina, or maybe even an astronaut when she was young. As an adult, she asked herself, "What happened that made me start whittling that down — to stop thinking I could be anything I came across?" Shane describes looking at the eyes of her students when she was a middle school teacher and seeing the pilot lights of curiosity blown out.
“Adult gate-keeping practices put boundaries on what we can achieve, especially for young girls. My job as a teacher was to always start that pilot light back up. To make them understand that the world is at your fingertips. That anything is possible.”
And guess what? Those boundaries? They're imaginary.
Believe bigger: self-belief is a superpower
Dreaming big is fantastic, but what turns dreams into reality is belief—belief in yourself. Everyone faces challenges and setbacks; that's just a part of life. But self-belief is the fuel that keeps a person going. Confidence is the key that unlocks our full potential and enables us to embrace life's challenges with courage and determination. It is the belief in ourselves and our abilities that empowers us to pursue our goals and dreams.
Girlstart is revolutionizing the way young girls perceive their capabilities, especially in the often intimidating world of STEM. Unlike traditional programs that may focus solely on academic rigor, Girlstart makes STEM captivating and fun through interactive workshops, hands-on experiments, and real-world applications. They're not just teaching equations and theories; they're inspiring a sense of wonder and excitement. This approach not only instills confidence but also encourages girls to take risks, to step out of their comfort zones, and to envision themselves as future scientists, engineers, or tech innovators. By making STEM approachable and enjoyable, Girlstart breaks down barriers for young girls and sets the stage for a lifetime of curiosity and achievement.
In the same vein, believing in yourself is the cornerstone of breaking free from societal norms and unlocking your full potential. When you believe in yourself, you're unstoppable. You're not just dreaming; you're doing. You're taking those small but mighty steps toward your big dreams. Each step is a win, no matter how small it may seem. Society often imposes norms and expectations that encourage us to pursue conventional paths for the sake of stability and security. However, when we succumb to societal pressures and ignore our curiosity and passions, we limit our potential for growth. Breaking free from these expectations requires courage, but the rewards are immeasurable. By engaging in activities that we're passionate about, we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves, our strengths, and our values. We become more self-aware, gaining clarity about our life's purpose and the impact we wish to make. This self-awareness enables us to set meaningful goals driven by an intrinsic motivation that comes from within.
Want to be a scientist? Go for it. An artist? Absolutely. A CEO? You bet. Big dreams are the first step to creating a fulfilling future.
Know you belong
One of the biggest hurdles young girls face is the feeling that they don't belong—that certain spaces, careers, or opportunities are not for them. But here's the truth: you belong wherever you dream of being. Your voice matters. Your ideas matter. You matter.
Knowing you belong isn't about fitting into a mold; it's about breaking the mold and making space for yourself. So, whether it's in a science lab, an art studio, or a boardroom, Girlstart teaches young girls that they belong there just as much as anyone else.
Dreaming big, believing bigger, and knowing you belong are more than just catchy phrases. They're the foundation for a life that exceeds your wildest dreams. So, to all the young girls and women of all ages who dream big, remember: your potential is limitless, your future is bright, and you are extraordinary.
This is a companion blog to our Sponsor X initiative that shines a light on organizations committed to empowering young people in STEM education, fueling innovation, and fostering a culture where everyone's potential is recognized and nurtured.