One NoCo Non-Profit Breaks the Glass Ceiling for Minority and Low-Income Girls with Hammers, Drills, Magnets, and Rockets 

Christmas is right around the corner and gingerbread house construction is underway at the Boys & Girls Club of Larimer County.  No graham crackers and gumdrops in this workshop; these girls are learning real carpentry skills – complete with power tools – along with a healthy dose of fractions and geometry.  It’s a typical class in Fort Collins-based GEMS – Girls in Engineering Math and Science.

GEMS promotes women in STEM academics and careers by offering resources for young female students, primarily minority and low-income.  Success begins with a feeling of capability and confidence, and GEMS classes give girls a sense of accomplishment around STEM subjects, increasing the likelihood that they will enter and excel in STEM fields.

GEMS flourishes under the corporate support of Integrated Mechanical, LLC, a Fort Collins-based mechanical engineering, HVAC, and plumbing design firm, where CEO Leslie Patterson is deeply committed to diversity in engineering, recognizing that the talent pipeline starts with elementary school girls.   GEMS is a program under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization The Quarter Project founded by Patterson in 2015, so named for the earning disparity of women in the US, who at that time were earning roughly 75 cents for every dollar earned by a white male.   As of the 2018 US Census, Hispanic women earned only 54 cents on the white male dollar – that’s the gap targeted by the GEMS program.

GEMS has grown steadily since its inception in 2015.  In addition to an expanded curriculum including pneumatics, solar energy, electricity and magnetism, engineering design, bridge-building, physics, and even rocketry, this year it fund-raised scholarships for a record twenty girls to attend STEM-X Institute, Poudre School District’s popular week-long summer STEM camp.  During the school year, GEMS is now offered in four locations, the Fort Collins Boys & Girls Club, the Loveland Pulliam Boys & Girls Club, Garfield Elementary Boys & Girls Club in Loveland, and the Harmony Village Boys & Girls Club.

GEMS is a charitable organization funded primarily through the generosity of donors, foundations, and fundraising.  Local corporations contribute in the form of engineers, supplies, and programs.  This year OtterBox dedicated volunteers as part of their Closed2Open program to GEMS, with 17 OtterBox engineers leading a boat-building workshop for 60 kids.  ConductAll Electric of Windsor will teach circuitry and provide holiday lights for this year’s gingerbread house project.  Various programs from Colorado State University support the GEMS effort, including the CSU Construction Management program, the CSU School of Engineering, and the Alpha Sigma Kappa sorority for women in STEM fields, all supplementing the GEMS teaching staff with volunteer teaching, course preparation, and fundraising.

As we enter the 2022 giving season, the bright young minds of GEMS hope that the generous individuals and companies in Northern Colorado will remember their program with their holiday donations.  For more information, please visit The Quarter Project.

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