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High school girls honored with STEM excellence awards

By Annika Prom, Lifestyle Editor

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Renhard introduces Baumgarner to the audience before she gives her acceptance speech.

The Edmonds SnoKing chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) recognized female juniors in the Edmonds School District (ESD) for excellence in STEM fields on Saturday, May 13 at Edmonds Community College.

MTHS students Ashley Klippert, Karen Benson and Minh Phan were awarded at the event for being outstanding in STEM programs.

Senior Vesta Baumgartner was awarded with the $1,500 STEM scholarship. In addition to being in STEM, Baumgartner was also recognized for being fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, maintaining straight A grades throughout all of high school and volunteering. Following graduation, she plans to attend the University of Washington to study biology or environmental science with hopes of becoming a wildlife veterinarian.

A letter of recommendation for Baumgartner cited her as being “instrumental to the success of many of [MTHS’] programs.”

Baumgartner’s love for animals and nature dates back to early childhood with her first word in both English and Mandarin being “duck.” Her senior STEM project focused on finding effective ways to remove oil from water. She wants to continue finding ways to have a positive impact on the environment.

Guest speaker and Days for Girls National (DfG) director April Haberman then shared her story of female empowerment through advancing equity in education for girls. DfG works to expand access to feminine hygiene products to girls who have difficulty affording them or are not fully educated on how menstruating works.

Haberman first became involved in the project when she brought her daughter to a puberty class. Her daughter asked what happens when girls cannot afford feminine products, to which Haberman did not know the answer to.

She then took to the ESD office to see what services are provided for girls without access to feminine products. After pulling up reports, Haberman learned that about 200 girls of menstrual age were homeless in the ESD. Many of them had a consistent case of absenteeism every month due to missing school when they got their periods.

Haberman contacted Celeste Mergens who had traveled to Kenya and learned that girls would sit on cardboard and miss school during their periods. Mergens sent disposable feminine products to Kenya but they could not be disposed of properly. Now the founder of DfG, Mergens crafted reusable sanitary pads.

Haberman demonstrated to the crowd how a reusable pad works. DfG distributes reusable pad kits that include two shields, two pairs of underwear, eight cotton liners, soap, a washcloth, menstrual calendars, picture instructions and a freezer bag that acts as a washing machine.

These reusable pads are meant to last two to three years and are designed to not look like feminine products to erase the cultural taboo of menstruation.

“When we give them a pad, we keep them in school and empower them,” Haberman said.

With over 960 teams and chapters worldwide, Haberman hopes DfG “put [themselves] out of a job” by educating others on menstruation and how to create these kits.

However, Haberman said ESD doesn’t accept washable feminine products out of fear of bloodborne diseases. Instead Haberman donates disposables to ESD to be distributed across the district.

More information on DfG can be found at their official website, www.daysforgirls.org.

Phan received the award due to showing excellence in math after her AP calculus teacher Nick Lencioni recommended her to AAUW. As part of the STEM program at MTHS, Phan is one of three girls in her computer science class.

“The STEM field tends to favor males,” Phan said. “It’s hard for females to be encouraged to go into these fields when it’s dominated by males already. Awards like this empower women into going into those fields because we are capable of doing it.”

The publicity head for the Edmonds SnoKing AAUW chapter, Sunny Strong, hopes to support local women who have “fabulous backgrounds” and “help remove barriers to [women’s education].”

“We want to encourage each person to be whatever she wants to be. When you get an accolade from an outsider it’s an additional reinforcement,” Strong said. “If someone from the outside says ‘Wow, we’re impressed,’ it’s an extra component to encourage you.”

 

Editor’s note: Photos for this article will be uploaded on Monday, May 15.

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The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.
High school girls honored with STEM excellence awards