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Girls

Using scientific Tools for Opportunities


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Girls!

Even though women make up nearly half the workforce in the United States, fewer than one in three jobs in the math, science and technology fields are held by women. It’s statistics like these that led to the creation of an ingenious program that’s going head-on against this costly trend. GUSTO or Girls Using Scientific Tools for Opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is a product of the Spruce Street Community

Development Corp. and the Fisk University Community Alliance. The summer camp targets girls, ages 9 to 15 from schools and neighborhoods across the city, and offers them eight weeks of handson instruction in math and the sciences, as well as language arts, communications, dance, arts and crafts, and even cooking. Each activity is geared toward teaching the girls lessons they can use not only in school and careers – but in life. The girls learn to write a


Watch the GUSTO girls in action and listen to GUSTO founder Isaac Thompson talk about the impact the program has had on the participants.


resume, balance a budget, follow a recipe – even debate a topic – all while having fun. But this isn’t summer school. This is cutting-edge learning by doing, watching, playing. And along the way, they are counseled, mentored and encouraged to achieve. They come out of the program changed. They are smarter, more confident, more ambitious and usually well ahead of their peers. “We hope they get exposure to the

possibility of math, science, engineering and technology disciplines and careers. We hope it gives them a sense of ‘I can succeed.’ We hope it gives them a network of professionals, of college students, of successful high school students that they can tap into and resources that they can utilize for their success,” says program founder Isaac Thompson. “We also hope that we’re [providing them] skills such as time management, organization, study skills at an early age


Project Ready prepares the older girls for college – everything from choosing a college to writing college essays and completing college applications to tips on choosing a major. Above, GUSTO students tour Fisk University.

so that they can apply those not only in high school but also in college.� GUSTO is effective by any standard. A series of objective measures have been used to track participants, and the evaluation has been carried out by both external and internal assessment teams comprised of scholars from Fisk and Vanderbilt universities, and the Nashville

Metropolitan school districts. The data speaks volumes. The drop out rate was cut in half, grade-point averages rose a full point, SAT scores went up, college enrollment climbed, and the crime rate went down. In fact, since the program’s inception, 11 girls have graduated and gone on to college. Onethird of those girls are pursuing degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


It may look like a simple culinary lesson, but these girls are actually learning math and science. Converting measurements helps sharpen skills in areas such as multiplication and division. Following a recipe teaches the girls skills they’ll need when conducting chemistry experiments. And after the lesson, the girls must each develop her own recipe, which hones communication skills.

“There are a lot of programs in the Nashville area – though not nearly enough for middle school aged kids. I think we’re one of the few that provide math and science as a backdrop,” Thompson says. “I think we’re one of the few [programs] that try to keep contact with the kids throughout the school year by providing an after school tutoring

program during the school year. We show up at their school. We attend their performances and athletic activities. We try to build really strong relationships that allow us to be a part of their lives and not just their summer.” Visit www.girlsinmathandscience.com for more information.


Best Friends Best friends Exondria and Rodnasha have a lot in common. They’re both 12. They both have bubbly, outgoing personalities and smiles that light up the room. They both love to make up dances. And now they have one more thing in common. As veterans of the GUSTO summer program, these girls now have even greater odds of graduating from high school and attending college. Exondria and Rodnasha met at the camp two years ago and have been joined at the hip ever since. That’s another benefit of the camp for all girls, says counselor and former camper Cristia Williams. She

says as a camper, she learned how to interact and get along with other girls, an important competence often overlooked and underestimated. Campers leave GUSTO with healthy friendships and relationships that last beyond the summer. Not only that, but the girls leave GUSTO feeling good about themselves. This fact could account for all the smiles and laughter echoing through the halls of the Spruce Street Baptist Church, where the summer program is housed. These girls are quick to tell you how much they are learning in the science labs, for instance, but they’re also not afraid to divulge their past shortcomings. Several of the girls admit to poor or failing grades in math and science before GUSTO. But since joining the program, they are all optimistic that their grades in the fall will improve, just as their attitudes toward these subjects have.


Tracking Success Even though the program has only existed since 2005, it’s already a success. Eleven girls have graduated from the GUSTO program since its inception, and all 11 will be or are attending college. About one-third of those are pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) -related fields.

1 in 3 the number of students in the metro Nashville area who don’t graduate from high school on time

$40,000 economic loss from each high school dropout


11

$600

the number of GUSTO girls currently enrolled in college

the amount it takes to help keep a young girl from dropping out of school by donating to the GUSTO program Source: all4ed.org


Isaac Thompson, founder and director of GUSTO


We hope they get exposure to the possibility of math, science, engineering and technology disciplines and careers. We hope it gives them a sense of ‘I can succeed.’ We hope it gives them a network of professionals, of college students, of successful high school students that they can tap into and resources that they can utilize for their success.”


Cristia Williams, counselor

“I learned how to study. I didn’t know how to study in high school. But now – even as a counselor – I still have those same study skills. I still make up the same songs [my counselors] taught me to help me remember things.”

– Cristia, a senior majoring in marketing and accounting, at Wilberforce University, attended the inaugural camp as a teenager. “I love kids. I want to see them grow and become successful young ladies.”

Tiara Wildmone, counselor

– Tiara, a sophomore at Nashville State, was one of the first campers who decided to rejoin the program as a counselor.


Lauren Bullock, 15 “Boys are dominant in science and medical fields, but I think more girls should [pursue science and medical careers] because we’re good at it, too.” – Lauren wants to attend Texas Christian University and major in biology and then pursue a medical degree in pediatrics.


This has been a wonderful experience in teaching. My time here has shown me that teaching is something I want to do. Not only that, but it has empowered me to know [teaching] is something I can do.” – D.J. is a recent graduate of Fisk University. In the fall, she’ll be working on her master’s degree at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School.


D.J. Hudson, counselor


Girls

Using scientific Tools for Opportunities You can help this amazing program continue to grow by making a donation to the GUSTO scholarship fund, which enables GUSTO to serve girls, regardless of their family income. Make an online donation or mail checks to: Spruce Street Community Development Corp. 501 Spruce St. Nashville, TN 37208 (615) 329-8605

Visit www.girlsinmathandscience.com for more information.

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Girls Using Scientific Tools for Opportunities  

GUSTO or Girls Using Scientific Tools for Opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is a product of the Spruce Stree...

Girls Using Scientific Tools for Opportunities  

GUSTO or Girls Using Scientific Tools for Opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is a product of the Spruce Stree...

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