Teaching girls to love science is extremely important. Much of the time, that special learning begins with encouragement at home.
When Jackie Lomas brought her daughter to a routine dentist visit, she didn’t realize they would get more than they bargained for. Jackie’s daughter, Lauran, said she wanted to be a dentist.
When Lauren told her mother this, Jackie took it up on herself to make that dream come true. The trick was to keep the dream alive and keep Lauren interested in science, math, engineering and math.
Jackie Lomax threw herself into a project that has become Girls 4 Science. It is a nonprofit that offers science-based field trips to girls ages 10 to 18 through the University of St. Francis in Joliet and two Chicago colleges — Olive-Harvey and Malcolm X.
This fall, 88 girls are enrolled in the program, with 28 coming through USF.
Lomax incorporated Girls 4 Science as a nonprofit in 2009.
“I did not want that moment (in the dentist’s office) to be a weak parent’s moment,” said Jackie Lomax, the founder and executive director for Girls 4 Science and a 1998 USF graduate.
“In 2009 I was unemployed and I used my down time to establish the nonprofit. It was something that I hoped would last with (Lauren) and support and encourage her with female advocates and college students.”
Today, Lauren Lomax is a 15-year-old sophomore at South Shore International College Prep on Chicago’s South Side. She still has a strong interest in math and science.
“I’m so proud of her,” Jackie Lomax said. “Now she’s closer to going to college and enrolling in medical school. I believe that Girls 4 Science has helped.”
Girls 4 Science emphasizes the STEM fields of education: science, technology, engineering and math. Besides taking field trips and doing workshops at USF, Girls 4 Science also has networking seminars with females in the STEM fields.
One such event was held last fall at Willis Tower in downtown Chicago. Girls got to take part in a speed-networking event with about a dozen members of the Women in Bio organization.
Topics change every quarter and the program runs for six consecutive Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Some students repeat the program because of the new topics discussed.
But since the program meets on Saturdays, Lomax knows what she’s up against to get girls’ attention: the mall, athletics, cheerleading and other extracurricular activities or interests.
“We compete for girls on Saturdays, too,” Lomax said. “But we promote everything. If a girl likes cosmetology, then we promote the science of hair. We did a class once on the science of food. We don’t discourage any interest.”