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Luíza – Turning Hesitation Into Motivation

Luíza, TechGirls 2022, Brazil

Two months before high school started, I had to make the decision of what I was going to study in college. The decision was not clear in my head, but I chose to major in International Relations. A few months later, I decided to visit a company in order to participate in some discussions, but instead of being interested in meetings, I fell in love with STEM, especially with data and computer science. The decision was made, I wanted to work with technology, yet many challenges came along with that as being a woman in an area dominated by men is not easy. I started searching for Summer Programs until a friend showed me TechGirls. The program was different, unlike any other. Tech Girls provided me with the opportunity to enhance my STEM skills as well as learn about other cultures and international issues. 

I like to say that during TechGirls, I lived a year in three weeks. It was a challenge and a life-changing experience. The program qualified my studies and gave me more academic opportunities. The experience changed my personality, as after TechGirls I understood the importance of being assertive and not being frightened to say or do something. We learn about how to lead, communicate, and network. We as TechGirls learned how to turn hesitation into power and motivation. We met a lot of inspiring women that worked in different areas of STEM. When we were at NASA Goddard Center, a scientist told me how she collected data from other planets to study. I realized how data science is important in different scenarios and studies.

The experience at NASA made me want to create a project using technology as a resource to solve an issue. The TechGirls program taught me how to combine my interest in social studies and STEM. My community project, ‘Yêda’, was first designed after a scene in “1984”, a book by George Orwell. During theater class, my friend and I realized that many people would not understand the joke from the scene because they were not able to read the book. We felt that it is important to encourage reading, but just donating books is not enough, as it is necessary to build the habit of reading in kids. We chose to do storytelling events in hospitals. This activity decreases the amount of cortisol and increases the amount of oxytocin, so children feel less pain after the activity. In order to reach as many people as possible, the project provides books on the public realm through QR codes on social media and with banners in the hospital. 

I am honored to be part of the TechGirls family. The community helped me with a lot of things. I had the chance to host a live event with the US Embassy inBrazil, to talk about activism and volunteering in other countries with alumni friends, and to be named ambassador of the program in Brazil as one of the first Brazilians to join the community. As Einstein said, “Be a problem solver and not a problem maker”. 

Luíza smiling in a field while wearing a Virginia Tech sweatshirt
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