Program offers girls a preview of technological careers

by Kelly A. Braun, '09, dental hygiene.
Photos by Jennifer A. Cline.

Pennsylvania College of Technology offers a program that gives girls the opportunity to get a firsthand look at technological careers. Recognizing the nationwide dearth of women in science, engineering and technology fields – the college’s own female population is 35.4 percent – and that girls begin to lose interest and confidence in math and science in middle school and high school, the college moved to change this trend by creating SMART Girls.

SMART Girls participant Jenny Loher loads mortar onto a manufactured stone facade piece in the college's masonry lab. SMART Girls is a program for girls in grades seven to 11. SMART is an acronym for Science & Math Applications in Real-World Technologies, and this program introduces high school girls to careers that involve science, math and technology. Girls in grades seven and eight can attend Saturday workshops, one in the fall and another in the spring. When girls are ready to enter their freshman and sophomore high school years, they can attend a summer program during which they stay on campus and attend workshops and field trips for about five days. Not only does the summer camp give the girls a taste of life on campus, more importantly, the workshops and field trips offer a hands-on chance to explore various careers.

Girls in seventh and eighth grades design homes in one of the college's architectural labs.I began attending the SMART Girls workshops in seventh grade. Through the program I got to explore many careers, from heavy equipment operator to dental hygienist. I attended both the day programs and summer workshops. After my experiences, I decided that I wanted to become a dental hygienist. It has been about nine years since my first encounter with the SMART Girls program, and after graduating from Penn College with an associate degree in dental hygiene in May 2009, I am working as a dental hygienist. Without the influence of the SMART Girls program, I may not have discovered an interest in the dental field.

Girls may find that they love a career that, otherwise, they may never have discovered.

The intent of the SMART Girls program is to encourage girls to follow their interests in the math, science and technical fields, even if this interest is “nontraditional.” I believe that it is important to continue to allow girls to explore careers that are traditionally male dominated. Girls may find that they love a career that, otherwise, they may never have discovered due to common stereotypes. The program encourages girls to build a solid background in math and science during their high school years to help in their college experience, as well as in their future careers.

Kelly Braun, a graduate of the SMART Girls program, helps conduct a SMART Girls workshop in the dental hygiene lab.Along with this encouragement, the pure hands-on experience with various careers is, in my opinion, invaluable. Often, students have a hard time making a career decision. This is a difficult decision, but with the opportunity to experience various careers – many of which the participants may never have considered – the decision may just become a bit easier.

I believe these girls have a true advantage when it comes to finding a career that best suits their interests. Maybe the participants will discover their future career and set goals to allow them to end up back at Penn College as students! ■

About the Author

Kelly BraunKelly Braun, '09, was a two-time recipient of the Sarah M. Ellegood Dental Hygiene Scholarship. Braun now works at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville and is pursuing her bachelor's degree from Penn College.


The next SMART Girls session is scheduled from July 11–15, 2010, for girls entering ninth and 10th grades.

During the five-day program, girls take field trips, participate in hands-on workshops, and stay with other SMART Girls in Penn College residence halls, where they are chaperoned.

One-day sessions are scheduled in fall.
Oct. 2, 2010, for girls in seventh and eighth grades
Oct. 23, 2010, for girls in 10th and 11th grades

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