Since its inception, the Women’s and Girls’ Fund, part of the Kern Community Foundation, has been affecting change in the lives of women and girls through annual grants to organizations dedicated to making a difference. This year, $75,000 was awarded to three programs, all pilot efforts focused on long-term solutions to societal challenges.
No Sister Left Behind received $25,000 for its upstart “Total Well-Being Program.”
“This stood out for me because the nonprofit operates in a much-needed place for women of color who may not be equipped to realize their dreams of college or bettering their employment,” said Fund Vision Committee member Cathy Bennett.
The program will provide workshops for Black women between the ages of 18 and 44 who are undereducated, underprepared and unqualified for economic empowerment.
“It is not enough to simply encourage women to strive for a better life,” said organization founder Glenda Woolfolk. “We need to address disparities from a holistic approach with a network of support.”
The focus of this year’s grant-making was education. The other two recipients zeroed in on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Our research, the 2020 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in Kern County, told us that girls will earn significantly better salaries if they are in STEM fields,” Bennett added.
Mighty in STEM Sisters (MiSS) was awarded $25,000 for its new after-school mentoring program in collaboration with the Department of Defense, Edwards Air Force Base female civilians, NASA and STARBASE professionals. Edwards is one of nine active-duty bases with a STARBASE program.
“Eastern Kern communities have limited enhanced educational opportunities for girls in the targeted communities like California City, Boron and North Edwards,” said program director Amira Flores. “Girls will be immersed in a variety of STEM areas such as robotics, physics, and aerospace. These golden opportunities are so special and will inspire future innovators.”
The third recipient is the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Educational Services Foundation which has created Girls Excelling in Math and Science (Gems). The 12-month program for up to 35 fourth- and fifth-grade Hispanic students from the Edison School District will be led by female STEM majors at CSUB.
“These students are the data points in the 2020 Report. Of the 1,060 students enrolled, about half are female. 90 percent are Hispanic/Latino living in a rural, isolated farm working community,” said Kern CountySuperintendent of Schools Science Coordinator Michelle Roy. “Girls’ interest in STEM begins to drop in middle school due to peer pressure, lack of encouragement and exposure and lack of role models.”
Developers of the pilot GEMS program hope, thanks to the grant, to replicate it in other school districts in the future.
“We at the Women’s and Girls’ Fund love STEM. These programs are attempting to break the mold so that girls learn at a young age that they can do science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and that it is fun,” Bennett said.