Say YES to girls in STEM with Oui STEM Academy

NEM is delighted to partner with Oui STEM Academy (OSA), a not-for-profit organization focused on STEM education and addressing barriers to access within STEM.

As part of NEM 2019, OSA will offer girls interested in STEM an introduction to blockchain workshop. Students will learn about blockchain and identify how it can be used to solve real world problems like homelessness, girls will also learn about structures with an emphasis on housing.

Founder and CEO, Dilesha Stelmach began the initiative after reflecting on personal experiences. STEM wasn’t something she considered herself good at, a common misconception among youth, particularly girls. After getting into the technical side of insurance and participating in online courses and workshops, Stelmach had a revelation; not only was she interested in STEM, she was also great at it! What made the difference for Stelmach was programing that sparked her interest and gave her the opportunity to explore. She wanted to create that difference for others.

OSA’s three-pronged approach: education, mentorship and bursary opportunities, holistically support the development of students. Stelmach says it’s not enough to focus on one aspect of development, “they need the hard technical skills and the soft skills and everything in between,” she said. OSA’s programing gives students the opportunity to engage with STEM in creative and financially accessible ways. Last Saturday, girls ages 7-14 attended a bath-bomb workshop where they picked apart the common item to better understand its chemistry components, manufacturing, environmental effects and safe use – glitter is super harmful for the environment! Girls aged 7-14 working together? You read right! Stelmach says it’s a way to foster peer-to-peer mentorship, “the older students naturally start to take ownership and support the younger students to ask more informed questions and then you see the younger students wanting to be like them,” she said.

Girls aged 7-14 collaborating at OSA’s bath-bomb workshop.

OSA strives to keep programming fresh and relevant, Stelmach says that the girls will always need core STEM skills like collaboration, critical thinking and communication, but the delivery of the content and the environment needs to evolve to reflect their realities and the real world. The workshop was hosted in collaboration with the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment and is part of a series of workshops that will cover every aspect of STEM. We’re SO happy the workshop was in such high demand that there will now be two session offerings instead of one!!

OSA’s workshop offerings in collaboration with the Jean Augustine Centre, covering each aspect of STEM.

OSA also encourages official mentorship opportunities like STEMHub Foundation’s  STEMStars program, which strategically pairs mentees with mentors based on goals and needs. The program provides a mutually beneficial experience for mentors and mentees! A top goal of the program is to eliminate under-representation of visible minorities and females in STEM careers.

The benefit breakdown for mentors and mentees in the STEMStars mentorship program.

The work of OSA is made possible through donations, collaboration and INCREDIBLE volunteers. Timaj Abdalla is one of those incredible volunteers, she lost interest in STEM in high school but wishes she found opportunities and support to keep her engaged. “Thinking back now, if I hadn’t lost that interest where would my life be now?” she said. Abdalla and other volunteers are a lifeline according to Stelmach, they help with every aspect of Oui STEM Academy! For Abdalla getting girls of colour into the field is important to increase diverse representation and show girls that they are capable and welcome in STEM. We couldn’t agree more!!

Find out more about Oui STEM Academy and stay tuned for upcoming events by visiting their website.

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