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Day of the Girl

Q&A with Jacqueline Means - the 15 year old girl defying the odds in Murdertown USA

There’s no better way to celebrate International Day of the Girl then to feature a young woman making huge strides in the STEM community. Jacqueline Means is a 15-year-old girl from Southbridge – Wilmington, Delaware, otherwise known as Murdertown USA. Shootings and robberies are the norm here. Unfortunately 60% of kids dropout of school, giving her hometown the highest dropout rates in the country. However, Jacqueline has defied the odds. She currently holds a 4.0 GPA at the Delaware Military Academy but her success doesn’t stop there. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are subjects that still intimidate many girls and she is on the path to changing that by hosting Girls Empowerment STEM Events.

I had the honor of asking Jacqueline about herself, her STEM events, and more. Check it out!

Jacqueline Means at her Girls Empowerment STEM Event with GoldieBlox toys

Q: How did you get interested in STEM?

A: Ever since I was little, I have always loved experimenting with things around my house. I remember I used to mix baking soda and vinegar all the time, even though I didn’t know exactly what was happening! As I’ve gotten older, my love for STEM has developed into me finding and creating experiments that I can share with other girls.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: I want to be a neurosurgeon! I have always found the brain so fascinating, and the fact that we’ve been studying it for years and still don’t know everything about how it works is really intriguing. I’d love to eventually travel the world offering free operations to individuals that can’t afford them. 

Q: What obstacles have you faced within your community to get to where you are today?

A: I often hear gunshots from my home, which is difficult enough, but a turning point came when I witnessed a person no older than myself get gunned down in the street near my home. I knew then that I had to offer to help in some way. I wanted to provide a different picture of what life could be to those who were only getting one image of their potential future, so I founded Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative. W.U.S.I. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, to the underprivileged girls of Wilmington.

Q: Tell me more about the Girl Empowerment STEM Events.

A: I started hosting my Girls Empowerment STEM Events two years ago. At the events (the most recent, and my 5th, being August 19, 2018). I have at least 50 girls in attendance at each event, with each girl not only getting to do her own five science experiments, including making dry-ice ice cream, but also getting a healthy lunch, an interactive anti-bullying demonstration, and an inspiring talk from prominent women from their community, including Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester and Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about STEM?

A: No matter your age, gender, or anything else, STEM does not exclude anyone. The great thing about STEM is, it’s not just one thing – it’s four different components. Between science, technology, engineering, and math, there is definitely something for you to love about STEM! I, personally, love science! I have always been so fascinated by chemistry, biology, and just all aspects of science!

Q: What is your favorite thing about hosting the Girls Empowerment STEM Events?

A: I love seeing the girls’ faces when they do an experiment they found really interesting, or when something one of my inspiring speakers says sticks with them. I love seeing the change in the attitude of the girls from when they arrive at my events to when they leave. They go from, “This stinks! We have to do science and math stuff!” to, “That was so fun! Science is actually really cool!”. It’s a complete change in opinion. With my STEM Initiative, my ultimate goal is to positively impact as many young girls as possible, and show them that they are valuable and capable of reaching any and all goals that they may set for themselves.

Q: How can others get involved?

A: To get involved, people can direct message me on my Instagram or Facebook, IG: @STEMQueenDE & @MissNewCastleCountysOT2018, and Facebook: @JacquelineMeans. I am always looking for volunteers to help at my events!

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