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Twenty-nine-year old Rachel Muir is using robots, rockets and roller coasters to teach girls math and science — giving them futures they never dreamed possible.
How it Began — Esteem Built on the Web
Like many girls, Rachel Muir struggled with math and science in school. "Math and science felt like boys' clubs," Rachel says. "I thought I was stupid. It had a really negative impact on me, and my self esteem was low because of it."
Rachel's lack of confidence in those subjects led her to a solid, but unfulfilling, career in Public Relations. Then her boyfriend taught her how to build a Web page and something "clicked."
"It felt extremely powerful to master something that I felt I was bad at my whole life," Rachel says. She realized she could have a lucrative career in Web design but decided to follow her heart. "I wanted to spare other girls the embarrassment and the shame that I went through."
The Solution — Make Technology Cool!
Rachel founded Girlstart — a program to get 11 to 15-year-old girls interested in math, science and technology at the precise ages studies have shown girls begin to lose interest in those critical subjects.
Girlstart recruits women working in science and technology to be mentors. Rachel says, "Girls need to see women in the technology fields so they can think that it is possible for themselves... We're giving girls every opportunity to excel and see themselves as astronauts, as pediatricians, as engineers."
Confidence is a Recipe for Success
By helping girls overcome their inhibitions about science and technology, Girlstart is showing girls that their future potential is limitless. Rachel says, "Studies show that when you empower a girl, she is less likely to abuse drugs, have an unwanted pregnancy, drop-out of high school, or be a victim of domestic abuse."
Rachel doesn't want any girls to be left behind, so Girlstart offers scholarships giving all girls an opportunity to enroll. As a result, more than half of the program participants come from traditionally under-served communities. Girlstart has junior high school programs, summer camps and Saturday classes.
Rachel says, "We're changing the way that the world thinks about girls, but more importantly we're changing the way girls think about themselves."
Published on April 30, 2001