As the weather gets warmer and schools get out for the summer, many children have the luxury of summer trips with their families and lavish summer camps. For many of the new refugee children who have come from the Middle East to California in the last few years, their reality is much different. Most refugees come to the United States dreaming of a better future – Moms Against Poverty (MAP) strives to make those dreams a reality.
MAP is excited to announce its newest program in the US: The Danesh Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education program for refugee girls. This program, run in partnership with Inspire-Tech, held its first week of classes on June 13th at Refugee Enrichment and Development Association (REDA) office in Sacramento, California.
This first of three workshops this summer focused on robotics, programming, women in STEM, and building confidence in the girls. 15 girls, aged from 9 to 16, attended. The girls had the opportunity to learn about robotics and program their robots to draw geometric designs, research notable women of color in STEM, and build community amongst each other.
At the start of the week, Parto Aram, the lead educator for the Danesh program, asked the girls to name a famous woman scientist. None of the girls were able to think of one. By the end of the week, the girls were excitedly sharing their research essays on women scientists who have impacted fields like cancer research, space travel, and Multiple Sclerosis. “One thing that inspires me about this scientist is that she is a hijabi like me”, explained Marwa, one of the young girls who participated in the program. On the final day, the girls also video-chatted with Hosna Mogaddedi, a principal scientist and chemist who like many of the girls is a refugee from Afghanistan forced to flee at a young age. It was incredibly special watching the girls speak with her, relate to her, and be inspired by her career and story.
After the final session was over, I had the chance to ask Parto what drives her to lead programs such as this and her thought process behind creating the program. She responded, “the technical curriculum that I develop is very intentional, incorporating technology, art, creativity, in addition to building confidence and community. Role modeling is powerful, “If they can see it, they can be it.” And right now, there are not many girls represented in STEM fields. By mixing programming and art, the girls were excited and engaged in each activity. After the workshop, a few girls and mothers individually came up and asked about more classes and if they could come back again. A couple of the girls wanted to personally connect with the Afghan Scientist and asked for her number. These classes spark interest in higher education, and STEM, build confidence, and in the case of Middle Eastern refugee girls especially, it lifts their spirits and gives them hope.”
To support the Danesh program and other life-changing educational programs, visit the Danesh page.
Moms Against Poverty would like to give a huge thank you to Parto Aram, Inspire-Tech, and REDA for their support of this initiative.