GYRL power

YWCA Bucks County receives $11,580 Project Innovation Award from NBC10 for TechGYRLS program

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

The future is bright: YWCA Bucks County’s TechGYRLS program, which introduces girls ages 9–14 to the world of STEM, was recently awarded $11,580. YWCA was one of six nonprofits chosen for NBC10’s Project Innovation Award. Source: YWCA Bucks County

It’s been predicted by media outlets such as CNN that 2018 will be the year of women. In many ways, it has. January saw a gathering of thousands in Philadelphia for the second Women’s March, while well-known celebrities made their voices heard during the #MeToo initiative. Despite these empowering movements, females remain the minority in the highly-regarded STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“We find women of color are underrepresented in these high-paying jobs,” said Sandy Blitzstein, director of program services at YWCA Bucks County.

Slowly but surely, this long-established dynamic is changing thanks to programs like YWCA’s TechGYRLS, which introduces girls ages 9–14 to the world of STEM. Recently, it was announced YWCA was chosen as one of six local nonprofits to receive the first-ever Project Innovation Award from NBC10/WCAU, Telemundo62/WWSI and the NBCUniversal Foundation. As the recipient of $11,580, YWCA will be able to fund two upcoming sessions of TechGYRLS.

“It’s support like this that allows the YWCA to promote the academic and social development of the youth that we serve,” said Guillaume Stewart, executive director of YWCA Bucks County. “We believe that women and girls have an important role as leaders in the field of technology. The support from NBC10 will help the YWCA carry out its mission and empower the young girls that participate in our TechGYRLS program.”

The winning organizations, which received a total of $225,000 in grants, were selected by the stations for their outstanding programs that leverage technology to solve everyday problems in the areas of civic engagement, skills for the digital economy and, in the case of TechGYRLS, STEM/STEAM youth programming.

For the past 10 years, TechGYRLS has been what Blitzstein called the “hallmark program” of the YWCA, which was established more than 60 years ago. Conveniently taking place after school and during the summer, TechGYRLS provides a safe, diverse, girls-only environment where upper elementary and middle school-aged girls can participate in an intensive exploration of technology.

Each year, two TechGYRLS clubs are run within low-income communities for two, 12-week semesters. The two-hour sessions take place either at the YWCA Bucks Meadow Family Center, 3131 Knights Road, Apt. 6–20, Bensalem, or in the community rooms of local apartment complexes where the girls already live, eliminating the hassle of finding transportation. The program is usually advertised throughout the complex and online one month prior to each start date. Families can also take advantage of an on-site kids’ corner, ESL classes and other YWCA offerings.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Blitzstein said.

TechGYRLS participants are introduced to the world of robotics through the utilization of the LEGO MINDSTORMS curriculum. Working in groups, the girls learn how to create computer programs that control the behavior of robots, as well as building skills.

“It’s a nice time for the girls to be together,” Blitzstein said.

At the end of the semester, they have the opportunity to visit a local business to see firsthand successful females working in STEM. Last year, they visited NewAge Industries in Southampton.

The Project Innovation Award will cover the entire cost of two rounds of TechGYRLS, including the field trip, staff, materials to build 12 robots per session and snacks.

The other Project Innovation winners include Hopeworks ‘N Camden, which trains young people in web development and Salesforce; Live Connections, which inspires learning through collaborative music-making; String Theory School, a Philadelphia-based institution that utilizes the arts in its learning techniques; Support Center for Child Advocates, which offers safety and justice for victims of child abuse; and Tech Impact, which offers programs such as PunchCode to educate and train future software developers.

YWCA Bucks County is located at 2425 Trevose Road, Feasterville-Trevose. Visit ywcabucks.org for more information and updates on upcoming TechGYRLS sessions. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com