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2024 Catalyst Awards: Celebrating 30 Years of Inspiring Change

Updated: Jun 4

On May 2, more than 250 guests joined us for our Annual Catalyst Awards to celebrate our 30th Anniversary at The Grand in Boston! Our generous sponsors and donors raised over $450,000 to support our free, hands-on programming. The evening of inspiration and celebration can be encapsulated by this attestment from our Keynote Speaker and First SCFG employee, Vicki Chen: 

“As I stand here tonight, surrounded by the embodiment of curiosity, passion, and potential, I am reminded of the transformative power of programs like Science Club for Girls. They don't just teach STEM; they inspire futures…join me in supporting this incredible organization as they continue to spark curiosity, build confidence, and empower the next generation of women in STEM. Together, we are teaching STEM, we are nurturing dreams, igniting passions, and changing lives - one colorful experiment at a time.

As guests arrived, they were treated to delicious food, networked with others dedicated to a more diverse and equitable STEM ecosystem, visited Curriculum Exhibits, posed for photos on our Purple Carpet and photo booth, and were interviewed about what STEM and Science Club for Girls means to them. 

The program began with emcee Pamela Gardner of NBC Boston welcoming attendees and getting them excited for the thrilling evening ahead. Board Co-Chairs, Alejandra Carvajal and Jennifer Rossi, then shared a bit about their personal STEM journeys and how SCFG would have impacted them as young women in STEM. They also engaged the audience with our mission statement and the impact we strive to have on participants, families and the community. 

Next, our Keynote Speaker, Vicki Chen, took to the stage and shared her experience as a Science Club mentor and staff member. She reflected on her goal of making science fun and not intimidating for young girls in Clubs and noted how excited she is to see that even over 20 years later, the approach is still the same. 

Keynote Speaker & First SCFG Employee, Vicki Chen

“I am proud to see that Science Club for Girls still fosters the same love of learning that has made every step of my career fulfilling. I recently visited the Science Club at King Open School - the school where I led Clubs in the 90s! There I saw the Clubs in action and was so proud to see that FUN is still at the center of Science Club for Girls, while exposing the girls to different STEM concepts and the scientific process. Science Club for Girls has, and will continue to change the course of participants’ lives by helping them discover the wonders of STEM. And they’re doing all this through incredibly impactful relationships with mentors who study and work in STEM.” -Vicki Chen

After Vicki’s moving testimony, we had the honor of hearing video remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts Governor Maura Healy. Both elected officials shared their support for what we do here at SCFG. Watch here:

This year, we invited a couple of Junior Mentors to introduce and present our Catalyst Awards. First, Junior Mentor Aniya shared her experience joining SCFG in the 4th grade and how the program allowed her to connect with peers, build relationships with mentors, and inspire the next generation of young girls in science. She then called up our first Catalyst Award Recipient Dr. Elenoe “Crew” Smith, Ph.D., Director of the biology for the Sickle Cell Diseases Small Molecule Program at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. 

Junior Mentor Aniya with Catalyst Awardee Dr. Elenoe "Crew" Smith

Dr. Smith took the audience on a life journey as she spoke about her passion for STEM and sickle cell research that began when she was a child. Today, as her career has taken her into the field of her dreams, she can only revel in the full-circle moment. But she isn’t done there. Dr. Smith recognizes the strong, female support system that got her to her goals and wants every girl and gender-expansive youth to have the same experience sharing, 

“When I mentor students today, the most common thing I hear is, ‘I’m not good enough, I would never get accepted, maybe I’m not ready.’ These limitations can be placed on women by society. There are enough people and institutions out there telling particularly women and especially women of color “NO”. To every girl who is interested in science, Do not say no to yourself. Surround yourself with a community that will positively support you, like the Science Club for Girls, but the first Yes needs to come from you.” -Dr. Elenoe ”Crew” Smith

Our next Catalyst Awardee was introduced by Junior Mentor Genevieve, a long time SCFG participant and graduating Junior Mentor. Reflecting on her own journey with SCFG, she said, ”My mentors at Science Club for Girls have inspired me and encouraged me...Working with these mentors showed me what opportunities are available to me in science, and I am truly grateful for this. They encouraged me to speak up – especially in male-dominated science classes in which I was the only woman of color. They gave me the confidence to speak up and believe that my thoughts mattered and were valued, and I am forever grateful for that.”

Junior Mentor Genevieve with Catalyst Awardee Dr. Jo Viney

She then called up our second Catalyst Awardee, Dr. Jo Viney, Ph.D, co-founder and CEO of Seismic Therapeutic, the machine learning immunology company developing medicines for autoimmune disease. As Dr. Viney walked to the stage Abba's "Take a Chance on Me" played and she danced with Genevieve before accepting the award. Dr. Viney’s riveting speech took us through her unexpected path to STEM and remarked how despite her passion and talents, the very foundation of her STEM education and career happened by chance. Because someone took a chance on her and believed in her ability to succeed in STEM, specifically in a pediatric medical research lab, she discovered her passion and pursued it to the fullest. Viney recognizes that in today’s world, luck and chance should not play a factor in the next generation of STEM leaders, saying, 

“It is so clear that the only way we are going to foster diversity in STEM professions is to offer skills, opportunities, and leadership roles to women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and all other diverse kinds of people. Change can happen and will happen if each and every one of us do our part to make science a more inclusive and welcoming space…I only ended up where I am today because of chance, and I want to make sure that the next generation of women and other underrepresented groups have more role models and a better roadmap to pave the way to success…we should NOT be relying on chance to reveal all the hidden talent that is available in our local communities today.”- Dr. Jo Viney

Closing out the evening, our Executive Director, Bonnie Bertolaet gave insight on the behind the scenes of SCFG. She spoke about the work and dedication put into the programming, fundraising, and outreach to make it all possible, giving big thanks to all of our staff, volunteers, mentors, and supporters. She and Pamela Gardner then challenged the audience to contribute to our mission of transforming the face of STEM by making a donation. By the end of the night, more than $450,000 had been raised for our free, hands-on programs!

Congratulations to awardees Dr. Elenoe Crew Smith and Dr. Jo Viney, and we are so grateful for their willingness and vulnerability to share their personal journeys, inspiring us all. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible including all of our sponsors: 

And thank you to everyone in our community who continuously contributes to the work we do for underrepresented girls and gender-expansive youth in STEM. We know that in a world where STEM is the answer to a diverse range of problems impacting society, we need minds from every community for more innovative breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Check out just a few of the awesome photos from the inspiring night here and be sure to follow our social media for more recaps, video snippets, and more in the coming weeks:

We had some incredible vendors helping us host this incredible evening for our community. We are grateful to have hosted it at The Grand, their staff supported the program behind the scenes and treated us all to an amazing event. We’d also like to thank Peggy and Aniya from Rooting for You for their beautiful plant decorations. We were happy to again work with our photographer Craig Bailey of Perspective Photo and with Boston Photo Booth Services for the Photo Booth.

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