I know that 7.3 billion people live on Earth, but let’s talk about how small our world really is. As we at Lab29 work to develop our program and grow our network, I regularly search for organizations focusing on Native Americans and STEM. This is how I found She Geeks Out, which educates and empowers ethnically diverse females in the corporate workforce...and this is where the ripple effect begins.
Ripple number one. As a female in STEM, I latched onto She Geeks Out and its mission. Since the company and its networking events are located in Boston, I searched for a way to connect remotely. Joining their Facebook group was the first move.
Now for ripple two. I decided to post in the Facebook group about our fundraiser with Bonfire and share a little bit about the Lab. That's when NCWIT consultant Kate Pickle messaged me with her contact information. She'd seen my post - and wanted to discuss Lab29's goals. The National Center for Women and Information Technology had just reached out to me. MIND BLOWN.
Of course I emailed her, which led to a phone conference with both Kate and Leslie Aaronson, another NCWIT rep excited to collaborate with the Lab. Leslie mentioned an upcoming conference taking place in Baltimore—the CSTA Conference for Computer Science educators. Ripple three.
I had happened to email my graduate program director at GWU that morning, talking with him about how I could work with the GWU Noyce program to create a pipeline of teachers to Native American Schools. I mentioned the conference, which would definitely further plans for the Lab, but that the entry fee would prevent my going. He offered to sponsor me. MIND BLOWN AGAIN.
[Leslie (left) and I at the conference]
The conference was absolutely incredible. I had never networked so much in my life, but I loved every second of it. Aaron and I went from table to table and from session to session, learning about other companies, sharing our passion, and exchanging cards with others who believed in our mission and wanted to collaborate. The energy among the teachers, program directors, and company representatives was contagious, and I was - and am - so thankful for the opportunity to be there to share in it. Ripple four.
I attended the conference's Family Code Night session and was waiting in line to meet with the speaker, FCN founder John Pearce. A woman waited next to me, and I caught a glimpse of her name tag. I thought it said she was from Florida, but I wasn’t sure. It's funny how meeting someone from your home state makes her feel like family. The woman introduced herself as Peta-Gaye Bisset, and struck up a conversation with me while we waited. Peta-Gaye runs her own nonprofit, Foundation of Excellence, while teaching Calculus in Southeast Florida. She asked me if I knew two of her former students who had also attended the University of Florida's math program. When I told her I wasn't sure, Peta-Gaye whipped out her smartphone to pull up Facebook photos.
Lo and behold, I knew both of the students. I had taken about half of my math courses with them. What were the chances?! I was standing there talking with an amazing woman who had not only taught one of my classmates at UF, but whose after-school program had directly influenced him to pursue a mathematics degree. MIND BLOWN FOR THE THIRD TIME.
And at last, ripple five. After the session, Aaron and I ran into Peta-Gaye downstairs. We were blown away when she spent almost an hour offering us advice and guidance. Foundation of Excellence is about three years old, and Peta-Gaye was thrilled to be able to give us the tips she wished she'd known in launching her own company. It was the input we had needed, but had yet to find anyone to give us.
So yes, there are 7.3 billion people in the world, but one Google search led to a sit-down meeting in Baltimore with a teacher from Florida who taught a fellow UF math alumni. Talk about a small world.