Young Women in STEM Reach for and Mingle with the Stars

Hidden Figures

From left: Dr. Knatokie Ford, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Aldis Hodge, Pharrell Williams

Photo courtesy of L.A. Promise Fund

A love of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) brought close to 10,000 young women together in University of Southern California’s Galen Center auditorium on Tuesday, January 10th.

As one of the largest LA Promise Fund initiatives supporting female students in Los Angeles County, Girls Build LA brought thousands of young women together from local public middle and high schools for a special screening of the 20th Century Fox film Hidden Figures. The film depicts the true story of the African American all-women team whose STEM contributions helped launch NASA’s first successful space mission.

Green Dot Public Schools students from Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy, Alain Leroy Locke College Preparatory Academy, Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School (ODLH), and Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School were among the young women in the audience.

Before the film, audience members were delighted to see Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, and Aldis Hodge who play the main characters in the film. Each actor, as well as the film’s producer, Pharrell Williams, spoke about the how these little-known women and their stories impacted the world.

Photo Courtesy of L.A. Promise Fund
Photo Courtesy of L.A. Promise Fund

“I just think that it’s so important that you all, women who will be shaping our future, know about these women. They had to persevere through so many obstacles and yet they achieved their dreams,” said actress Janelle Monae who plays Engineer Mary Jackson. “These are your new super heroes”.

STEM in Los Angeles

Events like this enable Girls Build LA to further their mission of empowering young women by providing them with the resources and support needed to design and implement community-based solutions using STEM studies. More than ever, there is a need for diverse minds whose unique backgrounds will allow America to continue to innovate and make vital scientific advancements similar to the efforts of the women in Hidden Figures.

Girls Build LA works with Green Dot Public Schools in designing and implementing community based solutions that have the potential to produce worldwide innovation. Green Dot students are able to identify changes unique to them and with the resources and support of Girls Build LA, address them.

Hidden Figures

“[Girls Build LA] is important to me because I am surrounded by girls who are persistent and want to achieve their dreams” said Anellys Marquez Senior at Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy.

Students and celebrities weren’t the only people attending the event. Diana Trujillo, Surface Sampling System Activity Lead at NASA, shared her story with the audience. “I came to the United States when I was 17, alone, with 300 dollars in my pocket, I didn’t know any English but I had a crazy dream,” said Trujillo. “I wanted to explore the stars.”

As the credits rolled, there was a thunderous succession of applause from the audience. “Thank you for inspiring girls in this generation and giving us an example to look up to” said Rebecca Portugal Sophomore at ODLH.

Young women walked away from the film feeling inspired. ”As a black female, I learned that I should never let what others think you can’t do, stop you from achieving your dreams,” said Tyneisha Sims Senior at Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy.

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