Helping Young, Brilliant GEMS in Our Communities Learn about STEM

Jennifer Thornton of United Way explains how she has teamed up with the University of California Riverside SWE section to encourage middle school girls to learn about STEM.
Helping Young, Brilliant GEMS in Our Communities Learn about STEM

By Jennifer Thornton

The ability of young women to impact change in society is amazing. Young women are able to bring about a fresh perspective to problem-solving due to experiences they may encounter that vary from those of their male counterparts. However, there is definitely a huge gender gap when it comes to the world of STEM. When I was younger, I thought that I was not “smart enough” to pursue a career in STEM…even though I was great in math. Unfortunately, I didn’t have programs available to me to help stimulate my abilities in STEM to move my life in the direction of a STEM career.

Thankfully, as life would have it, I have been fortunate enough to land a job that provides the opportunity to work with forward-thinking young women interested in STEM, as well as their advisors and community supporters. It has been a pleasure to serve in this role, as it also allows my creative juices to flow to constantly morph and motivate these young girls.

Helping Young, Brilliant GEMS in Our Communities Learn about STEMI work for United Way of the Inland Valleys in Riverside, California, where we work towards closing the gender gap by creating opportunities for middle school girls in our communities to live and breathe STEM. Our program is called GEMS (Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success). This program is possible due to the support we receive from Edison and Abbott Vascular.

We have a diverse group of young women in GEMS who are curious about the world, how things work, how things can improve, and how their knowledge can be used to positively impact their community.

One of the ways we engage these brilliant minds in STEM is by hosting a GEMS STEMfest at the beginning of the school year. We invite many STEM-related organizations such as SWE and ask them to provide hands-on opportunities for the girls. SWE has been incredible. Any time I have reached out to them, the University of California Riverside SWE women have come out full force and inspired the girls!

In fact, I am currently working on providing a university tour as part of our summer academy. I once again reached out to UCR SWE...they have taken on responsibility to provide three sessions of a fun, interactive hands-on activity as part of our university tour.

Helping Young, Brilliant GEMS in Our Communities Learn about STEM
Jennifer Thornton at graduation

I am extremely thankful to be able to work with organizations such as SWE which aim to create a network of support for the underrepresented. This will result in creating a more diverse workplace and educational space. Inclusion breeds success for all, as well as peace. Anything I can do to support SWE I will because the work we can do together is more than we can do alone.

About the Author

Helping Young, Brilliant GEMS in Our Communities Learn about STEM
Jennifer Thornton

Jennifer Thornton graduated Cum Laude from the University of Riverside, California with her Bachelor’s in Psychology. She is passionate about encouraging youth to pursue their dreams, regardless of their circumstance. She enjoys her work at United Way of the Inland Valleys with the GEMS (Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success) Program because she is able to work with wonderful women in the community and young women in the schools. She is a life-long learner and appreciates the opportunity to grow from her engagement with the girls in GEMS.