When she was in the first grade, Nethra Raju gravitated toward the Girl Scouts because she liked the idea of selling cookies to friends and family. “I thought it would get me out of my shell, allow me to speak to people and learn how to manage money,” Raju says. Over the years, the Girl Scouts built her confidence, honed her skills as a public speaker, helped her forge lifelong friendships and showed her the power of women working toward a common goal.
Raju, a senior at Ridge High School, recalls being impressed by her leaders—a doctor and a professor—who, despite their professional demands, took the time to manage the troop. Inspired, she decided to empower girls, teenagers and women in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) careers and highlight achievements of women in these professions.
She began designing Project STEAM as she pursued her Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. For a Gold Award project, a Girl Scout selects a topic she is passionate about that can be continued by other people and devotes at least 80 hours to implementing it. Ideally, the project reaches beyond the immediate community and has a wider impact.
In Project STEAM, Raju teaches six virtual classes to girls in kindergarten to third grade and six classes to girls in grades four to six over six-week periods. She also uses social media to educate girls about STEAM careers and motivate women in these fields to encourage them.
The project has expanded with team members and followers across the globe creating posts and determining content ideas.
“Providing role models to young children can help boost their confidence and enable them to achieve big things in highly male dominated fields,” says Raju who has since received her Gold Award and plans to pursue a pre-med track in college. “I started the classes as a way to bridge these ideas with some time for young learners to practice and do hands-on experiments when online school was highly prevalent.”
Follow Project STEAM on Instagram @projectSTEAM_ , on TikTok @projectSTEAM or at sites.google.com/view/project-steam.