Why I Volunteer: Megan’s Story

It was a brisk September day, in which I found myself outside an elementary school in Cambridge. Boston College parents’ day of my sophomore year to be exact. My roommates were still sleeping or out to breakfast with their parents, preparing for an afternoon of tailgating and a BC football game. And here I was, walking through the elementary school doors to an orientation for a volunteer position I had applied to just a few weeks prior. I honestly had absolutely no idea what to expect at this orientation. The name, Science Club for Girls (SCFG), alluded to the organization’s mission, but it did no justice to the impact it has had on my college and now post-graduate life here in Boston.

I had found an absolute passion for science my freshman year of college. After my first semester of Molecules & Cells, I was hooked, a declared biology major. So when I found an ad looking for “Mentor Scientists” for SCFG that following semester, I knew it would be the perfect fit. A volunteer program geared towards promoting science education to young girls, it was a complete integration of my two passions. And that is how I found myself outside that elementary school in Cambridge. I walked away from the Science Club for Girls orientation feeling determined and empowered, but most of all I felt hopeful for the future of women in the sciences.

I then began my first semester as a Mentor Scientist to the kindergarten/first-grade girls at the Newton site. Our curriculum for the semester was called “Matter & Slime.” Each Saturday as I returned to campus from a SCFG club session, I was exhausted from the craziness that ensues with any sort of science project. But my roommates would probably tell you that I definitely did not seem tired… I came back to campus excited to share stories of my girls, mere kindergarteners, telling me the definition of gravity. And what really is matter? Is it the air? Am I matter? Their answers never ceased to excite me. As a college student struggling through organic chemistry at the time, their enthusiasm for each 2-hour science club was a priceless reward.

I continued myposition as a Mentor Scientist through my junior year. I arrived each Saturday at the Newton Baptist Church greeted by eager faces while simultaneously faced with the challenge to explain how the Earth rotates to five and six-year-olds. When orientation for the spring semester rolled around, Science Club for Girls Executive Director, Connie Chow, approached me during a lunch break and asked me my thoughts as to why there was no BC chapter. At that time, orientation was filled with the Mentor Scientists from Northeastern, Wellesley, Brandeis and Harvard. I had sincerely just thrown myself into loving each Saturday club that I really hadn’t given it any thought until that moment. I was fortunate enough to have a fellow BC student also volunteering with SCFG at the time, Molly Gilligan. I went home from orientation and immediately began the research needed for starting a BC Chapter.

Newton Volunteering

To apply for a club at Boston College, I not only had to demonstrate how this club would benefit the students of Boston College, but also how it would fit within the Jesuit teachings that are the foundation of the school. To me the answer was plain and simple. As a woman in the sciences at Boston College, SCFG was the epitome of Boston College’s motto: “Men and women for others.” It was a tangible way of taking what we learned in biology, physics, chemistry, calculus, and helping others appreciate it who may not otherwise have the opportunity. It was an avenue to inspire other girls and young women to see science as something not just for boys. It was a way to constructively make a difference in the lives of young girls and make a difference in the gender gap that still exists in many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers today.

Our chapter was officially recognized by Boston College the spring of 2012. That following fall, Molly and I spent hours prepping for the annual student activities fair. We had both obviously loved our time as Mentor Scientists and truly believed that other Boston College women would fall in love with the program too. We had set the goal for the day at about 10 new member sign-ups, especially since it’s tough for a new club to stand out in a sea of hundreds of popular, well-established clubs. We walked away with a surprising turnout of over 40 email addresses on our sign up list. The SCFG message had spoken for itself.

Boston College Recruitment Fair

Our Chapter worked hard in the fall to establish our own club site near campus, and that spring we hosted our first two science clubs. It was just as rewarding to watch my fellow BC students enjoy being Mentor Scientists each week, confronted with the challenges and accomplishments that I had experienced myself the past two years.

Since graduating Boston College, I accepted a job as a research assistant in a cancer research lab where I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by smart, strong women colleagues. Walking into work everyday, I am reminded of all those moments I told my SCFG girls that they too could go to college and aspire to a career in STEM. It is a testament to the promotion of science education as being a driving force to closing the gap of women in the STEM careers. And it is evidence that women continue to excel in the sciences every day. SCFG was an integral part of my Saturdays as a college sophomore and junior, it was a propelling force through my senior year, and it is now a part of the woman in science I am today.

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