Jefferson Awards: Geneva West
There are less than 24% of women in the US working in STEM fields. Only two percent of those women are African-American.
Geneva West of Macon -- this month's Jefferson Award winner -- is well aware of these dismal statistics.
She's looking to change the trajectory of a lot of girls' lives through her Real Impact program in Macon.
"We have pretty broad careers. We use computer programming, computer engineering, scientists, chemist. We don't limit ourselves.” West said. “We don't limit ourselves at all because we want the girls to know that they have options to explore any career choice in stem fields."
West knows inspiring young girls in Middle Georgia to be engineers, scientists or even an astronaut requires more than giving them hope, but resources.
She says, "Middle Georgia and rural areas around it, there are not a lot women that are coming from here that are even exposed to STEM fields as a whole. We wanted to allow the young girls in grades 3rd-8th to be able to understand that there's an opportunity that exists outside their normal classes and the normal ways that they learn it."
West founded the Real Impact Center, Inc. in 2013.
The program offers over 350 possible hours of STEM and character development instruction per year.
They've reached over 1500 underserved girls in Middle Georgia including Tykeria, who came into the program in the third grade and is now a sixth grader.
West recalls, "Being in our program, she came in very shy, unsure, not knowing what she wanted to do, but after she joined our robotics team, she immediately understood programming and coding on a different level and she said Ms. Geneva I want to be an engineer. I know I want to be an engineer now."
West believes there are still so many hidden figures, who with the right guidance and exposure to stem subjects will blossom in these male dominant fields.
Her message is simple.
"Hey girl, you can be an engineer as well."