Most people would agree that middle school can be the worst time in an adolescent’s life. It is during this difficult time, when girls are most vulnerable, that they begin to doubt themselves and their abilities. Some girls begin a dangerous shift from being the subject of their own lives to the object of someone else’s. This is precisely the time that they need strong mentors to show them just what they can achieve if only they believe in themselves. The American Association of University Women (AAUW), a national organization whose mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research, offers an annual conference for middle school girls and their parents that goes a long way toward increasing girls’ confidence during this crucial time.
Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is a conference designed specifically for middle school girls. This day-long event, scheduled for February 26th, takes place at the University of Colorado Engineering Center on the Boulder campus. The conference includes hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). At the conference, girls get a chance to meet STEM role models and learn more about careers in those fields. The ultimate goal of Expanding Your Horizons is to motivate girls to become innovative and creative thinkers ready to meet 21st Century challenges.
Each EYH conference features hands-on activities. At EYH conferences girls participate in fun and challenging hands-on math, science and engineering activities led by women mathematicians, scientists and engineers.Through these workshops, young women learn that studying math and science can be both rewarding and enjoyable. They participate in fun experiments and learn about the importance of studying math and science in high school. By using local volunteers to lead workshops, girls meet with professionals who live and work in their own communities, and who may serve as possible mentors in the future.
My daughter attended two EYH conferences. After last year’s conference, she showed me a brochure from a local non-profit agency called The Women’s Wilderness Institute. She opened the brochure, pointed to a week long wilderness program being offered during the summer, and said, “I want to do this.” Here was a girl who had never been backpacking or camping in her life, yet she was determined that she could spend a week in the mountains of Colorado with a group of girls she had never met. She did it, and the confidence and strength she developed were life changing. She developed a sense of self at age thirteen that I couldn’t even imagine possessing at that age.
So if you are a parent or friend of a middle school girl, give her the opportunity to expand her horizons.