July 14, 2016 – Daisy Rocha Vasquez understands the power of Girls Inc. of Metro Denver’s Eureka! STEM Program, a four-week education immersion for rising eighth and ninth grade girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Not only has the recent Metropolitan State University (MSU) Denver grad and public relations/marketing intern for Girls Inc. seen the program in action this summer, she also participated in a similar program when she was young.
As a member of the Denver nonprofit YouthBiz when she was only 13, Rocha Vasquez taught classes of 30 to 40 peers in business, leadership, computer and life skills. She also took pictures and assisted in program planning. While growing as a leader there, she met her lifelong role model and friend, Sonya Ulibarri, who is now president and CEO of Girls Inc.
Rocha Vasquez departed YouthBiz when she started college, but the experience impacted her life in more ways than she would have imagined. She majored in technical communication with a concentration in public relations and a minor in marketing at MSU Denver, and in her last semester, while searching for an internship, met with Ulibarri and was offered an opportunity with Eureka!. She began in May 2016 and assisted with planning for the STEM-focused program, which was hosted on MSU Denver’s campus this June. The internship experience also included hands-on work with the 30 girls who participated in the program and running the organization’s Twitter account.
“In a way, it feels like I’ve come full circle,” Rocha Vasquez said. “It is powerful and inspiring to see 13- and 14-year-olds engaged in STEM. It not only empowers them; I feel empowered by it.”
The theme for this summer’s Eureka! program was “Building a Great City.” The students followed a rigorous schedule, learning all things STEM, and visiting places that supported that learning. For example, the girls visited PCL Construction and took a walking tour of the Denver buildings the company worked on, including the Buell Theatre, Emily Griffith Technical College campus and a courthouse.
After the tour, the girls had lunch at Union Station, where they hopped on the new A-line to Denver International Airport. At DIA they took a mini-tour and saw all the components that go into operating the airport. They learned about career opportunities in aerospace and aviation, and how they might one day work for the Transportation Security Administration or Homeland Security.
Rocha Vasquez was routinely impressed by the girls in the program.
“The students don’t just ask average questions,” she said. “They’re very thoughtful because they’re curious about STEM fields and career paths. There is a purpose behind their questions, and sometimes they even stump the adults.”
The student learning experiences culminated in a final project, in which the girls actually built model cities and shared them with the community. MSU Denver’s Center for Visual Art hosted the public exhibition on June 30.
That learning extended to Rocha Vasquez as well, who hopes to take the skills she gains in her internship to continue on her path as an empowered female in the workplace.