By the Post News Group

Fifty girls from West Oakland schools attended the Expanding Your Horizons Conference last weekend at UC Berkeley, an all-day STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) event.

The work of Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney led to the East Bay Community Foundation sponsoring the West Oakland students’ attendance.

Expanding Your Horizons was founded in 1974 at Mills College. The organization’s mission is to “inspire girls to recognize their potential and pursue opportunities in STEM.” Each year, over 25,000 young women from around the world participate in 80 Expanding Your Horizons conferences.

Councilmember McElhaney traveled to the conference with the students, teachers, and parents on the school bus. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she shared stories about her experience as an undergraduate and encouraged them to take advantage of all the learning opportunities.

“STEM is where the jobs are, however, it’s important that you have many STEM skills regardless of what career you choose,” McElhaney said. “In life and work, you will need to develop and test hypotheses, use a computer and technology proficiently, think outside the box by tinkering with new ideas, and use math facts regularly.”

The event began with an opening keynote presentation in which a female astronaut shared her experience about life in space, and encouraged the girls to follow their dreams by getting a good education. Students were then placed in pre-selected workshops – each taught by a woman in a STEM profession.

Oakland native Michele Silvia is a crime scene investigator. Serving as a workshop presenter, she brought graphite power, fingerprint brushes, and magnifying glasses. The group engaged in discussion about fingerprints and how they are used to help solve crimes before the students were given the opportunity to search for fingerprints throughout the classroom.

“I told the girls that I fight crime with science,” said Silvia.

Volunteers, including undergraduate and graduate students at the colleges where the conferences are held, organize all conferences. Learn more at www.eyhn.org.

Cross-posted from the Post News Group, March 24, 2014.

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