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Inspiration Abounds at the 2023 Catalyst Awards, Raising $335K!

More than 200 guests joined Science Club for Girls at the Broad Institute on Tuesday evening to celebrate our first in-person Catalyst Awards since 2017! Thanks to our sponsors and a very generous audience of supporters, more than $335,000 was raised to support Science Club for Girls’ free, hands-on programs. During the reception, guests networked, posed for pictures, and enjoyed delicious food. SCFG Program Staff helped guests make and decorate light-up circuit bracelets. Catalyst Awardee Dr. Latanya Sweeney referred to her bracelet as her “second award” as she proudly wore it during her acceptance speech. Attendees also explored chromatography and took home chromatography bookmarks.

Martine Francois, Deputy Director aka “Martine the Science Queen” from SCFGLive!, kicked off the program with 2020 Catalyst Award Winners, Ashley Cooper and Kaelyn Brown. Hannah Donnelly, NBC10 Boston Producer and Correspondent, did a wonderful job as the Emcee, keeping the program flowing with humor and compassion.

After Senator Elizabeth Warren’s inspirational video, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui spoke and celebrated the impact of Science Club for Girls.

“Science Club for Girls has been an integral part of girl’s empowerment for over 29 years as they aim to address the root causes of the lack of diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. With free programming, mentees are given opportunities to experiment, and to fail in safe and supportive settings. In turn, teaching them how to be resourceful and persistent,” Mayor Siddiqui remarked. “Tonight, I commend and congratulate Science Club for Girls on their vital role in preparing our diverse young leaders to enter the STEM workforce that will solve the most pressing issues of our time. I cannot stress enough the importance of their work.”

The first Catalyst Award of the evening was presented to Dr. Latanya Sweeney, Professor of the Practice of Government and Technology at the Harvard Kennedy School. The future technologists at Science Club for Girls look up to Dr. Sweeney, who paved the way as the first Black woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science from MIT. She also inspires us to realize the potential and power of data but remember that individuals are at the heart of these matters.

“I thought technology was going to be the great equalizer. I thought it was going to right all of the wrongs of society. After all, it was cheap and it was easy to reproduce. It would be fair,” Dr. Sweeney reflected. “I’ve spent my entire career trying to fulfill that vision. And finding places where technology is off the rails, often shedding a simple light on the issue and then watching a thousand great minds to follow.

“When I think about Science Club for Girls, I really think about that journey. That journey of who am I, knowing what to call yourself, being exposed [to STEM] - that’s what Science Club for Girls offers girls.” Dr. Sweeney continued, “And also at the same time the promise to society it provides. If I wasn’t in the room, if I wasn’t doing the things that I do, a lot of these issues would have gone unchecked. It’s really important to have a different perspective, a different vision, someone who sees the world in a different way in the room and able to help make decisions and craft our future. And this is the big promise of Science Club for Girls.”

Dr. Emily Reichert, CEO Emeritus of Greentown Labs, received the second Catalyst Award of the night for inspiring our emerging STEM leaders at Science Club for Girls to work for solutions in clean technology and to identify solutions that face our communities every day.

“Everything really changed for me because of two women educators in science who believed in me. These amazing educators mentored me at key points when I doubted my own ability and it really mattered to my career in STEM,” Dr. Reichert shared during her acceptance speech. “That’s why I love what Science Club for Girls does, [these programs] both expose girls and gender-expansive youth to experiences in STEM, but also engage mentors, some of whom we’ve seen tonight who can be role models for girls. And [SCFG] also focuses on teamwork, which as everyone in this audience knows, is incredibly important for success in school, in STEM, in business, and in life in general. Not to mention it’s how science actually gets done. And working together in teams, across nations, is how we’re going to solve the really big challenges that we face today.”

After the awards presentation, the audience enjoyed a video that provided a glimpse of the incredible relationships between Science Club for Girls’ participants and mentors. What you may not know is that approximately ⅔ of the total number of girls (currently 530 and counting!) in SCFG’s programs participate virtually because it makes our programs more accessible and inclusive for them and their families. The virtual environment has proven to be just as impactful as in-person, as evidenced by the relationship between Benisha, an SCFG Junior Mentor, and Tahoura, an SCFG Mentor. To the audience’s (and their) delight, Benisha and Tahoura met for the first time in-person during the Awards Program!

Dr. Bonnie Bertolaet, Executive Director, had a tough act to follow after Benisha and Tahoura’s emotional meeting but did a wonderful job of highlighting what makes Science Club for Girls so special. She was joined by Alejandra Carvajal, Board Chair, and Senior Program Director, Cristina Ullmann, to present the 2023 Impact Awards to outgoing Board Members Karen Page and Karen Whitney. Both women have been instrumental in keeping our mission alive and propelling our vision to transform the face of STEM. Because of the leadership of these inspiring women, SCFG has more than tripled its enrollment since 2019.

Before the close of the evening, Hannah Donnelly challenged all attendees to pull out their phones and join Science Club for Girls in transforming the face of STEM by making a donation. A thermometer on screen filled with each donation and as the number rose, there were many cheers from the audience. The Live Ask portion of the evening raised more than $68,000 bringing the night's total over $335,000!

Our work to transform the face of STEM is made possible by the hours invested by mentors, the support of our sponsors, the creativity of our staff, and the generosity of so many individuals. We are so grateful to everyone who joined us to celebrate Science Club for Girls and to recognize the impact of Dr. Latanya Sweeney and Dr. Emily Reichert at our 2023 Catalyst Awards.

The night was filled with so many highlights, it's impossible to capture all of it in one blog post. Watch our social media for more video clips and photos in the coming weeks:

Thank you to our sponsors who made this incredible night possible:

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