Nia Lambert, 18, of Chicago, Illinois, a senior at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, worked with two classmates to create a nonprofit organization that inspires first- and second-grade girls to feel confident in their skin, with the goal of bridging the gender gap in STEM fields. During her freshman year, Nia’s biology class was challenged to make a difference in their community using science. She and two classmates decided to launch an after-school program focused on science and female empowerment, while building a garden outside their school. With a few other friends and volunteers, they engaged 25 first- and second-graders at South Loop Elementary School to help build four garden beds, a garden canopy and a hopscotch play area. “While completing the project, we realized how much fun we were having, and its impact on the students, school and surrounding community,” said Nia.
As a result, the team used social media to recruit more high school students to serve as volunteer mentors, began organizing fundraising events, and persuaded another elementary school to adopt their program. Their second garden was completed at Bronzeville Classical Elementary School the following spring. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Nia’s program has operated on a virtual basis. Nevertheless, the organization has grown to include 20 high school volunteers from all over Chicago, has raised more than $7,500 in cash and in-kind contributions, and has engaged more than 50 young girls.