BridgeUp: STEM takes gender inequity in the STEM fields into our own hands - and the hands of our girls. STEM provides opportunities for girls and young women of all backgrounds to learn the skills of computer science in small groups with their peers. We have programs for different age groups: the Brown Scholars program teaches high school girls computer science skills while the Helen Fellowship employs recent college graduates to research with scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and teach and mentor the cohorts of younger women.
Girls who show an interest in STEM fields at an early age drop this interest at an alarming rate by the time they reach college, where many math, science, and computer science courses are dominated by their male counterparts. Over 66% of 6-12 year old girls are interested or enrolled in computer science programs. Around high school age, that number drops off to only 32%, and by the time they are college freshman, only 4% of girls are enrolled in computer science majors. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. US graduates are on track to fill 29% of those jobs. Women are on track to fill just 3%.
Our program aims not only to allow these young women to pursue their interests with support and encouragement, but also to help them develop the confidence to face a room in which they may be one of very few women and know that they deserve to be there. And in the longterm, BridgeUp:STEM is part of the movement to make those rooms more gender-balanced.
The Brown Scholars program invites high school girls to a three-year after school program with intensive education in computer science and other sciences.
Brown Scholars spend their first year at BridgeUp:STEM learning programming, data visualization, and databases with 120 hours of coursework out of the American Museum of Natural History, taught by Helen Fellows.
The coursework is offered either as a summer program, 5 days a week from 10 am to 4 pm from July to August, or after-school two afternoons a week, 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, from October to June.
After successfully completing the coursework, Brown Scholars in their second year work on a nine-month paid internship in computational research or applied computer programming within a division of the American Museum of Natural History. Scholars work in small groups or partners with the guidance of a Helen Fellow and direct communication with Museum scientists in their relevant field of research.
In their third year with BridgeUp:STEM, Scholars have the option to participate in our College and Career Colloquium. Two Friday afternoons a month from September to May, Scholars take field trips and have workshops exploring various academic and professional opportunities that lie ahead for young women interested in computer science and fluent in coding languages.
Helen Fellows are recent baccalaureates who excelled in a STEM field while at their college or university. These young women apply to a one-year position at the American Museum of Natural History and use the fellowship period to work closely with top scientists and researchers from the Museum, teach and mentor the Brown Scholars, and realize the best next career step so that they can leave BridgeUp and enter a new position with confidence, ready to lead.
Helen Fellows work full-time at the Museum, closely tied with a department of interest to them, from astrophysics to ornithology, researching and developing with established scientists. Each fellow is also assigned to a cohort of Brown Scholars. Fellows spend the afternoons mentoring Scholars directly in their second-year internship work or teaching coding and computer science concepts and techniques to Scholars in their first year. Fellows and Scholars work closely together, and Fellows provide role models for the Scholars to look up to, as successful and confident women just a few steps ahead of them on the path to careers in STEM.
Magic Grants are also available to Helen Fellows so that each Fellow has the flexibility and support to pursue her passions. Magic Grants have been used for research equipment, travel to prestigious international conferences, rented use of top of the line astrophysics equipment and telescopes, and more.
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