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Friday, July 12, 2024

Girls in STEM Academy launches for 2024-25 school year

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Designed to empower young women in science, technology, engineering and math, the new Girls in STEM Academy aims to address the gender disparity issues facing the current landscape.

Women occupy of 28% of STEM jobs, and the gender gap in math confidence begins as early as age 3, according to the American Association of University Women. These statistics were the founding principles of the academy, whose curriculum is specifically tailored towards STEM.

“Girls in STEM is designed specifically to create more equitable outcomes for girls in STEM careers,” Principal Chrystal Westerhaus said.

The Girls in STEM Academy will be Indianapolis’ first all-girls school of its kind, a feat that Assistant Principal Phoebe Rusie is excited to embark upon.

“Girls in STEM is going to be a really exciting adventure,” Rusie said.

The tailored curriculum will focus on several things such as the gap in math efficiency young girls face and self-efficacy. According to Westerhaus and Rusie, the underlying goal is to ensure the school is a safe space and that the girls feel a sense of belonging.

“We hope this environment helps (the girls) succeed and thrive,” Rusie said.

The staff of Girls in STEM Academy. (Photo provided/LinkedIn)

Currently occupying a temporary space at 6602 Hoover Rd. on the north side of the city, the academy will be operated by Paramount Schools of Excellence. Paramount is acclaimed for having some of the highest academic performances and recognized as one of the top 200 Indiana schools providing accessibility in STEM education.

Charter schools have become a topic of heated debate in recent years, with many arguing that they take away students and resources from under-funded and under-serviced public schools. Many have also argued that, because they do not abide by the same standards as public schools, they do not need to be transparent about rules and practices.

In the case of the Girls in STEM Academy, some have also argued that the concept of all-girls schools is limiting and discriminatory towards students. As Westerhaus and Rusie explain, however, their school is held to the same standards as public schools and is designed specifically for girls interested in STEM.

“The ground root of it all is educational equity,” Rusie said. “We don’t see as many women in STEM. We want to change that.”

The school is chartered in Purdue Polytechnic High School, Every Girl Can STEM and Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Each partnership is designed to inspire students in specific ways and curate their education for their future, according to Westerhaus.

Westerhaus is hoping to get the word out about the academy and will be hosting events to encourage community recognition and participation. The Taste of STEM event will be held Friday, July 12 and will feature KONA ice trucks, face painting and science-based activities. Additionally, the Girls in STEM Academy will be hosting a back-to-school night from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 31 Tours of the school are available daily.

“We hope to be a bright spot in the community and an access point for education in a different model,” Westerhaus said.

The permanent location is being renovated and will be at 5136 Michigan Rd. The initial 2024-25 school year will have one class in each grade level, K-6. The following year will introduce grade 7, and the year after grade 8. While the permanent site is being renovated, Westerhaus continues to be mindful of the future for the school.

“Our goal for the years to come is to bring more STEM to Indianapolis,” Westerhaus said. “We are hoping to see even more young ladies participating in STEM.”

For those looking to enroll or to find more information, visit girlsinstemacademy.org.

Contact Staff Writer Hanna Rauworth at 317-762-7854 or follow her on Instagram at @hanna.rauworth.

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