Spotlight on National Volunteer Week, April 6-12

Created in 1974 to “honor the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities” National Volunteer Week is a reminder to me to pause and thank the people who contribute to our organization’s high capacity to “inspire a girl to change the world.”

Techbridge thrives with the help of many volunteers: our board, our STEM role models, and a body of caring adults across the country I cannot name. They are the Girl Scout troop leaders who take that extra step to bring engineering activities to their girls. That act sounds simple, and we try to make it as easy and fun as possible, but it takes an exceptional troop leader to do it.

In the Girls Go Techbridge program, our council partners receive programs-in-a-box with the kitted materials and activity instructions to lead design challenges and talk about engineering careers with girls. Many times, the boxed programming is implemented by council staff, in a special one-day event, in an outreach effort with a school or community center, or perhaps over the course of a week of camp for daughters of migrant farm workers. Those council staff are amazing; they give me rich feedback for improvement and inventively adapt the Girls Go Techbridge kits to their particular situations. Our council staff partners are incredibly creative, resourceful and smart!

Occasionally, the GGT kit is used by its originally intended audience, a troop leader who wants to do STEM with her troop of girls. This is no easy endeavor, as anyone who works with kids in out-of-school time knows. Just scheduling a troop meeting to get everyone in the same place at the same time is heroic these days.

So when a troop leader takes the extra effort to check out the GGT kit from her council, review the Leader Guide in advance, make a sample of the hands-on project, and then facilitate the design challenges with her girls – now that is a Wonder Woman!

These amazing volunteers are risk-takers; they know that not every project will come out “right” but they understand the importance of failure and perseverance, and they capitalize on these “teachable moments” as their girls use the GGT kits. These daring volunteers are willing to put aside their own ambivalence and uncertainty about “doing science” because they know their girls will benefit.

These troop leaders are also master managers; they manage to get the kit materials back to their council in a timely, organized manner so another troop can use them. And they’re so diligent; they complete pre and post surveys with their girls that yield the important results to prove Girls Go Techbridge works.

Most of these women I never get the opportunity to personally thank. They’re scattered across the country in 20 councils that use Girls Go Techbridge. But they make my project possible, they make my work easy, and I owe them a debt of gratitude.

However, I do personally know three volunteers who have contributed to the GGT project, so I’d like to thank them in recognition of all the others.

Chris Alsip from Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois heard about Girls Go Techbridge from her council contact, and decided she would be personally responsible for making sure her rural service unit benefitted. Chris trained 15 other adults to lead GGT, and has facilitated the kits with 100+ girls to rave reviews.

Kathryn Rivers from Girl Scouts of Western New York is a retired engineer. Her expertise was acknowledged by her council contact and Kathryn was “roped in” to GGT. Kathryn carefully reviewed and critiqued the “Power It Up” curriculum, sharing needed changes with me. Now she is doing the work of duplicating kitted materials so her council can have more kits ready as troops request them.

Chris and Kathryn are “especially special” volunteers to me, as they volunteered their own vacation time to attend Techbridge Summer Institutes in Berkeley, to train alongside our council staff.

Mythili Ponnekanti from Girl Scouts of Northern California heard a presentation about GGT by her council contact at a service unit meeting. Mythili followed up, checked out the Engineers to the Rescue kit, led it with her troop, and they had such a good time they decided to host a service unit event so more girls could experience the activities. Mythili patiently and skillfully led her Senior troop as they planned, prepped and facilitated, epitomizing the Girl Scout ideal of allowing girls to lead. You can see their great event and hear from Mythili’s girls here. Talented leader that she is, you’ll never see Mythili – she allows her girls to shine.

Volunteers take action and solve problems, and they make the world a better place. Volunteers have made the Girls Go Techbridge project shine. This week, and every day, I sincerely thank you.

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