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Turning Girl Scout Memories into Career Strategies

October 04, 2019 12:00 AM
By: Jamie Arehart

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Who mentioned the Girl Scouts first – they can't remember – but Alicia Kavulic, district geotechnical engineer, and Jamie Arehart, community relations coordinator, both of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's (PennDOT) District 10, began swapping stories about their fond memories as Girl Scouts. Then, an idea: As former Girl Scouts who both decided to pursue careers and leadership positions in transportation and government, they should reach out to the Girl Scouts to see how their roles at PennDOT could help girls who wished to have more knowledge of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professions. And so, they did. 

With the help of Jessica Schlie, Girl Experience Specialist for the Girl Scouts of Western PA, Kavulic traveled to Camp Redwing in Renfrew, Butler County. On September 20, 2019, Kavulic met with Girl Scouts at their Think Like an Engineer Journey, where girls learn how to think like an engineer by participating in hand. There, Kavulic discussed her career as a civil engineer through photos and a hands-on activity that challenged the girls to identify construction materials that PennDOT uses to build roads and bridges (such as concrete, steel reinforcing bar, high friction surface and reflective glass beads) and then to guess their purpose.

"I think it is great that the Girls Scouts are encouraging girls to learn about engineering," said Kavulic. "I enjoyed spending time with them and teaching them about what we do at PennDOT."

The purpose of the Think Like an Engineer Journey is for girls to see STEM as the foundation for a meaningful career. According to Schile, "Girls who participate in STEM journeys become better problem-solvers and critical thinkers, and they receive better grades, earn scholarships, and follow more lucrative career paths."

According to a recent study from the Girl Scout Research Institute, although 81 percent of high school girls show interest in STEM careers, about half believe that STEM isn't a typical career path for a girl. Studies have predicted that within the next decade, the U.S. workforce will need 1 million more STEM professionals than it can produce.

"Girl Scouts has the largest pipeline of future female leaders available, and no place is this more important than in STEM fields," said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA. "Girl Scouts is the only organization for girls with the expertise and reach to help pave the way for any young girl — no matter if she lives in Middle America or a major city — to break barriers and achieve any dream she may imagine."

While more men than women hold professions in STEM fields, "PennDOT is making it a priority to educate and mentor young women about future careers in government and transportation," explains Arehart. "Girls need to know they have a wide range of options when it comes to what they want to be when they grow up."

The Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania (GSWPA) provides 20,230 girls from 27 counties and many different backgrounds and beliefs with the resources to become tomorrow's leaders. For more information, please visit the GSWPA website.

For more information on how PennDOT supports women in transportation and campaigns for engineering as a future for girls and students can be found on the PennDOT website.

Photo: Alicia Kavulic, Annabelle Turner, Butler PA, Tiffany and Amber Valentino, Chicora, PA, Rachel Spinelli, Cranberry, PA, Julie Schile, Julie Spinelli.

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