The Ripple Effect of No Limits

Contributed by Lorena Harris

Everything started with the NGCP  NO LIMITS program initiative and partnership with Mattel and Mercedes Benz. A Group of students sitting in an auditoriumJanuary cold morning at Up State NY in Schenectady, girls and boys from the middle schools and high schools around the county travel to our community college to be part of a transforming and inspiring program. The program commenced showing a short video and moderators began to see the spark in the conversation between young kids. College in the High School students, Liberty Partnership middle school scholars and College students prepared videos to share their points of view in regards to Stereotypes in the STEM field. Many topics were presented and discussed. They talked about bullying, technical careers, computer sciences, women in engineering or nanotechnology, and in general, their feelings in places where the majority of the role models or peers were not girls.

The level of excitement and their questions during the discussion made me hopeful of the future, the next step in our communities. They (our kids, middle school students) are thinking about their next step in their future. We are planting the seed and there will be water and sun to keep it growing.

In this program we were able to show the kids the different experiences and perspectives connected to scenarios relatable to them. We presented the choices and opportunities (made by them), and we showed that the choices we make today would change our future. Independently of others, there are no limits, if we decided to pursue our dreams and keep on helping each other in a safe environment to achieve our goals.

A women standing in front of a screen that reads "Fabrication Process". Students at desks, face the the screen

 

  • A girl talked about her experiences as nanotechnology major in a mainly men dominated classroom, and she mentioned that it is possible. She survived! We had college students talking about their research experiences and trying new things. After a couple of hours, the final video and surprise came along. The little ones love the gift; they wanted to bring the program to their brothers and sisters elementary schools. Thus, we encouraged them to talk about it with their family and friends!
  •  CSTEP College students took this experience to the next level and developed a survey to understand the effect of stereotypes in our community. Through developing of an instrument (survey), student’s curiosity and social concerns are raised; data analysis is exercised and further review and presentation of their results to the community at large is in the planning, so they can create awareness of the similarities and differences, and continue their path in an unbiased manner.
  • Other really amazing activity was developing a screenplay Three girls sitting at a tablefrom the Girls Scout troop 2081, with three scenarios.  The girls wanted to present a short series of skids titled: Stereotypes Busted! They created three scenarios: 1. Gender stereotypes; 2. Cultural stereotypes; and 3. Stereotypes based on criminal records. The third scenario was my favorite, in this one a women just released from prison had trouble finding a job or been hired, because of her criminal records. The manager of the store “Sofi” truly (biased) believed “Lucy” will be unfit for the job (untrustworthy and a bully). Even though, her resume did show she could be a great employee for the company. “Good thing superhero Stereotype Buster “Amy” was there to open minds and make the impossible possible for everybody to win!”  Superhero Buster comes in singing out loud a two lines song that convince the store manager to hire Lucy.


Lorena Harris, CSTEP and LSAMP Director from Schenectady County Community College. She is a member of NYS Girls Collaborative, Schenectady STEM Alliance, NGCP, AAAS and ACS. She is the 2019 Margaret Ashida STEM Leadership Award recipient, educator, mom and a FabFem Role Model.

NGCP's partnership with Mercedes-Benz USA is tackling the issue of gender stereotypes and showing young girls they can aspire to be and do anything they desire. #GirlsHaveNoLimits. Via NGCP mini-grants, thousands of girls have been gifted a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist's historic 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix performance. Learn more about this initiative.