Members of the All Girls STEM Society in a Zoom. Courtesy photo

San Diego teenager Amanda Tran said her interest in STEM began in elementary school when she found a box of her parents’ old college books.

“I desperately wanted to learn what all the symbols, equations and squiggles were all about. Fittingly, my favorite subjects since then have been math and science,” said Tran, a senior at Our Lady of Peace in Mid-City “As a kid, the hands-on experiments and activities in science classes intrigued me the most and encouraged me to study science at a deeper and more molecular level in high school.”

Despite her interest in STEM subjects, Tran said it was difficult for her to find workshops or classes she felt “comfortable in.” That changed when she discovered the All Girls STEM Society, a nonprofit organization that has hosted free workshops for girls since 2015.

“I realized that I wanted to help give girls a learning environment where they are encouraged to participate and share ideas without having to worry about being judged or about being wrong,” said the now co-president of the local organization. “Making mistakes, and being wrong is how we can grow and learn new things, and I think it’s important for girls to understand that and go through that kind of process of learning.”

Amanda Tran. Courtesy photo

Tran said she hopes the group inspires all girls to pursue their passion, whether it’s in the STEM industry or not.

“It’s important for young women to build their confidence both in the classroom and in the workforce so that they can not only acquire more knowledge, but also share their ideas and share their passion for STEM with others,” she said. “Our number one goal is to provide these girls with a supportive learning environment where they’re encouraged to ask questions and collaborate with one another. The best way to learn is to work together, ask questions and not be afraid of being the only one in the room with a certain thought or idea.”

Emma Hong, a junior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, said she hopes the All Girls STEM Society encourages more girls to pursue careers in the industry. She said as an elementary school student, most of the “math-loving” students were girls.

“Over time, the other girls stopped, either because of sexism, societal stereotypes, lack of role models, or their other interests,” said Hong, who now serves as co-president of the group. “And then, I felt it — the underrepresentation. I joined the math club, but I was often the only girl there among loud middle school boys. I wish it didn’t, but being the only girl did discourage me. The only reason I kept going was my love for math.”

Like Tran, Hong said her confidence saw a boost when she discovered the All Girls STEM Society. Today, with the help of the two co-presidents, the group has worked with more than 4,000 girls.

All Girls STEM Society participants before the pandemic. Courtesy photo

“Sure, 4000 girls seem insignificant to the millions of girls out there,” Hong said. “But when they grow up, these 4000 girls could serve as women role models to other enthusiastic young girls, inspiring them to enter STEM fields too. And then maybe these girls will inspire the next next generation of girls to do the same.”

Hong and Tran have already inspired their younger peers.

Marileen Meamari, an eighth grader at Hillsdale Middle School in El Cajon, said her confidence has grown since joining the All Girls STEM Society.

“It is important for more girls and women to be involved in STEM because girls and women are amazing,” Meamari said. “We are superheroes and most major inventions were made by women. There may be a lot of men and boys working in STEM too, but who says women can’t? We are amazing and could do world changing things.”

For more information about the All Girls STEM Society, go to allgirlsstemsociety.org/.

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