Andrea M. Baldrias / Contributor
On October 13th, 2018 the Society of Extraordinary Women’s launched their free 10- week program titled Ignite Leadership and STEM Academy which mentors middle school and high school girls. Their mission is to empower girls to discover their extraordinary selves through mentoring, and education for a lifetime.
On January 19th, the Fall 2018 cohort closed the program with a graduation ceremony during which students presented what they’ve learned about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies and its various uses. The Fall program’s emphasis was on environmental science. Students presented community mapping and shared their geographical imprint (i.e. where they lived prior, etc).
The program is held every Saturday and includes two modules. The first module is the technology module which focuses on exploring GIS. The second module is the Leadership component, which focuses on esteem building, team building, presentation skills, financial literacy, the arts and aviation.
“GIS technology is the cutting-edge technology that is used today. Rather than just giving them exposure to coding and mapping, I want them to understand how it’s going to work after school and in college. There are thousands of applications for GIS and not many people know that,” explained Shirley Coates, Executive Director of the Ignite Program and President/CEO of the Society of Extraordinary Women.
The Society of Extraordinary Women is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization comprised of a group of diverse individuals committed to making a difference in the lives of young women and girls, and positively impacting their communities.
Coates felt there was a need for a program that cultivated young women’s confidence in academia and their talents. The basis of the program was the low high school graduation rate. From that, the leadership module of the program was developed. After more consideration, the program leaders decided to focus on three factors for the program and its modules: (1) self-esteem, (2) peer pressure, and (3) parental component.
“For girls, it really seemed to change when they got to middle school,” Coates expounded. “They’re fine and then all of a sudden, they start to have problems with self-image and feelings of inadequacy. When you build a child’s self-esteem, they’ll want to take their education seriously.”
For the parental component, Coates finds that it helps to have the parent advocate for the child. The parents are asked to attend classes that assist them in learning about how to support their child in learning during the program by teaching them GIS. The parents are also taught about the importance of advocating for their child when it comes to navigating the school counseling systems and ensuring their child stays on track.
“The reason why we’re studying [GIS], especially in Riverside, is because we talk about being a city of art and innovation,” Coates highlighted. “To do that, we want to be sure that our students are prepared for the jobs of the future. When we talk about future leaders, in order to step into these jobs, you’re going to have to have knowledge about how this [technology] works and how to use it.”
The next cohort will begin sessions in April. The teachers and program leaders are still in conversation about the subject for the technology module. For more information about the Ignite Leadership and Stem Academy or to sign-up, visit: http://www.igniteleadershipacademy.net/.