- Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest launches its inaugural five-year Eureka! Program, focusing on STEM, higher education

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Hailey Freeman, with sunglasses on her forehead, and Madelynn Young, right, explain the phone app they created during their four-week STEM learning camp. Garmony Endambo is in the center.

This summer, 17 Portland area girls have designed smart phone apps, learned about IT security and studied the science of crime solving at Mt. Hood Community College.

These are just a few of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics the girls have explored during the inaugural Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest Eureka! Program held at MHCC and Portland Community College.

Incoming eighth-grade girls, many from the Reynolds School District, are taking part in ongoing STEM training and personal development during the five-year Eureka! Program.

Through high school, girls will participate in monthly STEM learning events and mentoring. They also will prepare for post-secondary education and receive internship placements during their latter years of the program.

“We’re having a conversation about the ‘whole girl’ throughout the entire program, and I think that’s a powerful anchor,” said Karin Malbrough, program director at Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest.

Malbrough points to disheartening figures on girls in STEM, statistics that Girls Inc. is trying to counteract.

Only 7 percent of teen girls express interest in STEM fields, with 68 and 65 percent of Oregon’s eighth graders below proficiency in math and science respectively.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - A student uses a QR scanner to transfer an app she and her partner wrote from their computer to their phone.

Statistics for women and students of color in the STEM workforce reveal that women make up about 57.1 percent of all professional workers, but hold 26 percent of positions in STEM-related fields.

Only 27 percent of computer professionals and 13 percent of engineers are women, and fewer than 2.4 percent of advanced degrees in STEM fields are held by women of color.

At the same time, STEM career opportunities are expected to increase by 10 percent in the next five years, with Portland earning the nickname “Silicon Forest.”

Through Eureka!, the goal is for girls to gain exposure to higher education and STEM fields along with college and career resources. In particular, the program strives to reach girls of color and girls who will become first-generation college students.

“These girls are getting ideas about these subjects and careers they didn’t know they could do or they didn’t know existed,” said Taylor Gibson, a staff facilitator for Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest who helped lead the four-week summer camp.

Girls' empowerment

During a session with the nonprofit organization ChickTech, Garmony Endambo, a 13-year-old Reynolds Middle School student, introduced the Empowerment App for her group, geared to make people smile on a stressful or sad day.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Garmony Endambo

“When you click on your emotion, a quote will come up,” Endambo said. “It’s an app that could help a lot of girls.”

Born in The Congo, Endambo spent her early years in Europe before moving to the United States in 2007. Her family relocated to East Portland two years ago.

At first, Endambo felt shy with the Eureka! girls, but now she feels close to them and eager to explore new subjects.

“I can’t wait for the next five years,” Endambo said. “I want to learn more about science topics and go to a really good college.”

Endambo has particularly enjoyed the personal development component of Eureka!, a piece Malbrough said is critical in prompting girls to deconstruct gender stereotypes and look at the ways they relate to other females.

Girls Inc. Program Manager Leslie Nelson, a Catlin Gabel graduate who received her undergraduate degree from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., participated in a Girls Inc. group as a teenager.

The organization’s mission drew her back as an adult.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Leslie Nelson

“We say that girls are already strong, smart and bold, but they may not believe they have those traits,” Nelson said. “We’re here to point them out and help give them the tools to draw out that strength.”

Both Gibson and Nelson said their involvement in the Eureka! Program has inspired them to learn more about STEM topics such as coding as 20-somethings.

They are heartened to see the next generation of girls delving into STEM.

By 2025, Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest has a goal to serve 10,000 girls each year through its programs.

“Girls represent such an enormous amount of potential as we look at the economic development across the state, community development and thriving families — there’s a critical role every one of these young women will play,” Malbrough said.

Learn more

For more information about the Eureka! Program, which started this summer in the Portland area, visit

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