Wayne State University's 'Go-Girl' program inspires girls in science, math

DETROIT – Kendra Cox is still weighing her career options, but the ninth-grader at Farmington High School student has lots of options.

"My first dream job is to become an actress, and my second is to be an experimental scientist or a psychologist," said Cox.

If she chooses science, it will be a career path not chosen by many women before her. According to the National Science Board, women made up only 28 percent of all science and engineering jobs in 2010. But Wayne State University is hoping to get more girls interested in "stem"careers -- which stands for science, technology, engineering and math -- with its Go-Girl program.

Go-Girl stands for Gaining Options, Girls Investigate Real Life. The program starts off as a 10-week course during the winter semester spending Saturdays learning about careers in stem fields. Then, during the summer, they can spend four days on campus, live in the dorms and experience college-level courses.

Girls from eighth through 12th-grade can participate.

"In a Heart Beat" is one of the many workshops the Go-Girl program offers. It focuses on heart health. The girls wear pedometers and keep track of their nutrition and diet during the program. During the four-day program, they also held real human hearts in their hands and learn about careers in biology.  

They drew the heart, learned about the arteries and valves, and what defects the heart can have and how it affects the body.

The girls are also introduced to nursing. As part of the course, they listen to different heart beats and learn how to take a pulse.

"I'm really good at science, that's my strength. Before I came to Go-Girl, I didn't like math at all and I was kind of struggling. But when I was introduced to Go-Girl it was like, oh this can help me," Cox said.

Patty Lare, an eighth-grader at Bates Academy, said she struggles in math but Go-Girl is changing that. 

"It helped me interact with people more and also be commutative. And also for the engineering you have to understand processes and this helps me learn things quicker," she said.

Lare is interested in being a musician or becoming an engineer.

The all-girls environment can give them confidence for when they return to school in the fall. 

"It's less, 'I can do better than you.' It's not that competition. For me, if I am in a classroom with guys and girls, I feel like I have to show you that I am better than you," Cox said.  

Mentors play a huge part with the learning process with this program. 

The girls are paired up with mentors like Fariha Ghazi, who is in Wayne State's Med-Start program. She wants to be a doctor and wishes Go-Girl would have existed when she was younger. 

"I think it is important so they can be empowered by other girls. It will motivate them to continue working hard in school," Ghazi said.

Go-Girl continues to help long after the girls leave campus because the mentors stay in contact with them.

"As a mentor our responsibilities are to tell them about college, kind of guide them through high school. Going through all of scheduling classes, ACT prep, that sort of stuff," Ghazi said.

Mentors help them with homework, text them, and are there as a friend to guide them. 

For more information on Go-Girl, click here.

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