At SJK, our strong sense of community is at the heart of who we are but this year has certainly made it difficult for us to come together as we normally would. Rebecca G., a DP2 student, overcame this challenge in her own way by bringing like-minded Upper School girls together to share their love of and interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Rebecca, who is headed to the University of Waterloo for biomedical engineering next year, has a keen interest in STEM. Yet, despite her strong interest, she felt she was holding herself back in STEM-based conversations with her classmates. She realized early in the year that what she needed, as a female interested in pursuing a career in STEM, was a community of like-minded girls that she could talk with openly and comfortably. SJK did not yet have such a group so Rebecca, who has shown her natural leadership abilities in various other aspects of the SJK community, took matters into her own hands and created the SJK Women in STEM Club.
Rebecca’s goal for this club was to create a place where Upper School girls could feel safe to talk about anything STEM-based without being judged and learn about what it means to be a female in STEM. She wanted every girl to know that there is a group for them if they ever need support in the pursuit of their STEM interests.
The first meeting was held shortly before the December winter break. Over the remaining months of the school year, a core group of approximately 14 girls met regularly over Google Meet to hear from a diverse selection of women in STEM. The club was privileged to hear from eight guest speakers:
- Nour Abdallah (Undergraduate engineering student, McMaster University; SJK ‘20)
- Dr. Anne Croy (Professor Emeritus, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Queen’s University; elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada)
- Clara Fikry (Strain engineer, Ginkgo Bioworks Inc, Boston MA, USA)
- Bryné Hadnott (Freelance science writer and astronomical software developer, Seattle, WA, USA)
- Hanna Nopper (Undergraduate engineering student, McMaster University; SJK ‘20)
- Dr. Joanne O’Meara (Professor, Physics, University of Guelph; co-founder of Royal City Science Centre, Guelph)
- Dr. Glynis Perrett (former planetary scientist on NASA Mars rover missions; SJK Physics and Math teacher)
- Dr. Thalia Semplonius (project manager, Niagara Workforce Planning Board)
The girls enjoyed these regular meetings and they learned some valuable lessons from the speakers. A recurring message that every speaker shared was that no path is linear. Where you end up is often not where you planned to be, and that is OK! This message resonated with and reassured every club member. Grade 10 student Aleeza Z. shared that her favourite speakers were Nour and Hanna, recent graduates of SJK. “[Hanna and Nour] were probably my favourite speakers because they have gone through very similar experiences to what we will be going into next year in DP at SJK. They were able to give more insight into the DP, how to be successful in it, and were able to give information on how to get into your wanted university program”. Maya S., another Grade 10 student, shared that “many of the speakers have inspired me to pursue what I am passionate about. Specifically, my favourite speaker was Dr. Croy. She is one of the most intelligent, humble, and hard-working women that I have met, and I will always remember her words of wisdom...This club has been an amazing opportunity to explore my interests, learn from inspiring women in the STEM community, and connect with others”. Two particularly valuable words of wisdom from Dr. Croy were: “Do your best at all times because you don’t know who is looking” and “you do not want to be perfect. You want to be excellent”.
Even though Rebecca is moving on from SJK to the next chapter in her STEM journey, the Women in STEM Club is just getting started. We look forward to welcoming even more girls next year and are excited to see how this club evolves in the years to come! Thank you to Rebecca for starting this club and paving the way to support future SJK girls in STEM!