Teen Committee Year-End Reflections 2014-15

ARUSHI AGARWAL

This past year has been amazing. I was first introduced to GI through Erica, another TC member. We were both talking about girls, Silicon Valley, empowering skills, community service, and of course, GI came up. She told me about the startup series where I would be able to work with entrepreneurs and mentors who would be able to guide me and introduce me to the world of business model canvases and pitch decks. So, I went to this event and I was blown away by how involved the TC were in the planning and the execution. After that, it was just plain sailing. I joined and at first, sort of watched and learned, and then Uyen started the redefining of the Teen Committee where everyone had a role and was involved. I became a Projects and Events manager, and worked on organizing Gavel Club and Big Dream.

Throughout this whole process, I became more confident in my communication skills, especially with emailing and learned a lot about how to convey my thoughts more effectively. In some of the Teen Committee meetings this past year, we also discussed the Student Leadership Challenge and how to become a stronger leader. In the future, whenever I plan or organize something with others, I will know that I have to Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Encourage the Heart, Challenge the Process, and Enable Others to Act. These help define, or at least outline, the top five points a leader should possess.

The most important thing I’ve discovered this past year, is that I should be committed and venture deeper into a topic I like, but at the same time I need to be more impactful in the community using the dedication. One of the many things I’ve learned this past year from Uyen, is that if someone is really passionate, they should go the extra mile to make a difference in the community. All we have to do is take initiative. And that’s another concept I’ve learned from Uyen, just go ahead and start planning. Just get out there and help the community.

Leading up to this dinner, a lot of us have learned skills that can help us to effectively benefit our community. Next year, I think that TC members should put a social impact project into action. With the skills that we’ve learned and our dedication, we can make a huge impact on the community. In addition, we should focus this next year on creating a stronger sense of mentorship between TC girls, new girls, and mentors.

Uyen has several projects in mind that she wants to implement and there are several girls who also want to join the TC. Current TC girls, who are not doing a social impact project, and new girls can all mentor each other and work together on one of Uyen’s projects. For TC girls who have a social impact project, parent mentors who are willing to take on a social impact project that interests them or is in their field can join TC girls to create a great community. Working a couple of hours a month with girls, parent mentors will advise and will become a valuable member of the team.

I also think that while everyone is working on several projects, there should be a cohesiveness to Girls Innovate! Once a quarter or trimester, there should be a group meeting where all the different project teams share what they have done so far and their plans for the future. We can ground the members and keep the greater GI community in touch. This would be where we all get to know everyone involved with Girls Innovate better and catch up with other parts of the organization. I’m looking forward to seeing where Girls Innovate goes next.

ANIKA BAGGA

When I first heard about Girls Innovate, I had attended the Start-up series. Amazed with the collaboration of the girls, enthusiasm, and food, I immediately asked I believe Serena how I could get further involved in the organization. She directed me to Uyen and that’s how was able to join the Girls Innovate community.

From the first TC meeting I attended, I saw what Girls Innovate harnessed. It was zeal, and I really wanted to contribute to help the community and passion going. Since then, I have extremely enjoyed helping out and leading the Girls Innovate opportunities and events. Specifically, I was really honored have gotten the opportunity to lead Gavel Club, a public speaking and leadership group with 20 girls, in the school year of 2014-2015. Leading this year-long event has really helped me work on my communication skills, but I also learned so much from the girls and Christie, our mentor. Although each meeting had a similar agenda, each meeting also presented itself with a different speaking, learning, or leading opportunity.

Being part of the TC has provided with new skill-sets that I was not able to build at school or while doing extra-curricular activities, like for example we had done a value-exercise to think about what we valued most, something we don’t think about routinely. I remember that I had listed collaboration as one of my top values and I believe that I have been given several chances within the TC and Gavel Club to hone into that skill.

I really hope to continue being involved in the Girls Innovate community by leading a social impact project next year. This year, I have taken Java in my school and to begin with, there were few girls in my class, and the more striking fact was the amount of girls that dropped out of my JAVA. Next year, I hope to continue and use the Gavel Club skills I have harness to develop and execute a project to introduce more girls to technology. Furthermore, I would like to thank Uyen, Christie, and all the moms that have supported us and I am excited to see how GI evolves in the next phase!

CELINA CHOW

Being on the Girls Innovate! Teen Committee has taught me the value of teamwork, cooperation, creativity, and inspiration. I remember about three years ago, before the Teen Committee existed, Girls Innovate! offered a tour of IDEO, a design firm. This tour was the first time that I was truly fascinated and inspired by what design could accomplish. As Girls Innovate! grew, I became more exposed to design thinking. Before Girls Innovate!, I had no clue as to what I wanted to major in in college. Now, as I am a junior in high school, college is fast approaching. Thanks to Girls Innovate! I know that I want to major in industrial engineering or mechanical engineering, possibly with a minor in industrial design. This coming summer, I have decided to take some industrial design classes at the Academy of Art in San Francisco so that I can further develop my interests. My goal is to be able to work at IDEO because I remember loving the environment there and what they do. After attending, planning, and helping out at so many Girl Innovate! events featuring such venerated speakers, I realized how many opportunities there were here in the Bay Area, and I am excited to go out and take them.

Having the Teen Committee was truly beneficial for all of its individual members as well as the Girls Innovate! organization. The Teen Committee was such a fulfilling experience. It was the first time that I learned to do the behind the scenes aspect of carrying out events like workshops. Without the Teen Committee, all of the events from 2014-2015 might never have happened and Girls Innovate! wouldn’t have the recognition it has today. With the Teen Committee, Girls Innovate! was able to carry out impactful events and workshops that influenced girls from a wide range of ages from all over the Bay Area. In the future, I hope that the Teen Committee remains in contact with each other. I also hope that Girls Innovate! will continue to organize helpful workshops that I remember having so much fun at. I hope that the people who are really passionate and have the time to be dedicated to a specific Girls Innovate! project should be able to pursue that, and I hope that all of us from the Teen Committee can always be there to support one another in our personal endeavors and continue to be like a team in every direction that life takes us.

SAPNA DESAI

I’ve been a part of Girls Innovate for a little over a year now. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned so much along the way. Over the years I’ve been a part of many teams and communities, each with a unique spirit and goal.

It is rare to find a community like Girls Innovate. Every member brings something special, contributes their strengths to form a team and strong spirit that is at the root of everything accomplished. I think that this community will only get stronger and impact more lives.

When faced with the question of what I believe my “true spirit” to be, I’m lost for an answer. After all, who we are is constantly changing. Everything changes; you, me, Girls Innovate. Maybe I could answer by saying that the spirit is like a fire. Growing, taking in all that is around it, and giving light as long as there is fuel, as long as there are people willing to tend it. We contribute by adding fuel to the fire, to keep the spirit alive and going. Every person plays a role, even the parents, who can get involved as mentors, contributing their experience and advice.

I personally, can commit to doing my part, either as part of the Teen Committee, the media team, or just attending the wonderful events. Maybe the answer isn’t always definite, the future not always clear. But in order to achieve a bright future, I believe that the best thing to do is continue to work as a community. We should continue to form connections, and bring others up to reach their full potential. If we pursue our shared passion, of helping others and improving our community, it’s impossible to fail.

ELINOR KRY

Girls Innovate! is like LEGOs. When we first started, we had a few small pieces. We didn’t have 2 by 6 studs even. We had maybe 2 to 3 people helping out and didn’t know how to gather people together. But then there was this magical idea that we would become the Imperial Palace or the Villa Savoye. Maybe one day Girls Innovate! will be a huge success and inspire girls to do many things.

I remember that day when we first got the 2 by 10 stud. It was the day after the June 1st event and there were many comments that we should do it again. Someone suggested that we start a Teen Committee. So we did. I think that over the past few years people have gotten to know each other and learned to express their voices. It was like us growing from a plate into a plate with more and more bricks on top.

I think this year’s Teen Committee has been the most successful. All the girls really got on hands and feet and started building the layers that will support the grand architectural pieces of our future.

EMMA O’HARA

It’s a great reflection on the organization that me, as a 15/16/17-year-old, can feel truly accomplished by the projects and connections she’s made with her peers. What started off as an unfamiliar group of girls and their mothers talking about empowerment and visionaries in a Taco Bell, has now become an integral part of my identity. These past two years with the GI! community have given me insight into what kind of leader I am, and how I can work effectively with others.

I hit the ground running with Girls Innovate! On day one Uyen asked me to be Co-Teen Committee Leader for the first event of 2014, and I fell in love with the planning process. After that, most of the work I’ve been doing with the TC has been about optimizing the process and enabling the girls on the TC to participate in planning. This included a lot of emails, video calls and discussions with you, the TC and mentors. This communication and this connection is what makes Girls Innovate! so inspirational.

Anyone can put on a great event, but I think it’s the community we create through discussion and presence that inspires our audience and causes them to envision the world in a more innovative manner.

All of you here, today, are a part of that community. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve contributed a lot, your presence in my life and Girls Innovate! is inherent. By responding to emails and speaking up at TC meetings you’ve become a part of the vision. You all inspire me to work 5-7 hours a week for Girls Innovate! You all are what make TC meetings enjoyable. You all are what make me feel accomplished, supported, and valued.

My proposal for this next year, or second chapter or continuance of our great work is to get you, parents, more involved. Since December of 2013 I’ve been refining the planning process with Uyen, and since September of 2014 I’ve been working with P+E. And the one thing that’s apparent is Uyen’s commitment to us, the TC. She works very close to every project and enables us to have decision-making positions. She helps us outline the trajectory of the project timeline, and she teaches us how to keep ourselves grounded in what needs to happen. I can only imagine the type of energy this takes. Uyen doesn’t just make projects, she doesn’t just do the tasks, she empowers us to make these organizational decisions, and I think this is too much for any one person to take on. It takes a village to raise a child, but for the past two years Uyen’s been managing 16 future CEO’s and young women that will one day break the glass ceiling.

I’m inviting you, parents, to sit at our table and become a part of our community. Be project managers that keep projects on track, engage with the TC girls who aren’t your daughters, and most importantly, roll with the bumps in the road. We are all learning how to do this as we go, but let’s inspire one another by doing it together.

My vision for the next year is that we will grow closer as a community and continue with the same (if not more) amount of passion, compassion and innovation as we have these past two years.

SANJANA SHAH

Girls Innovate!….I love the name, when my mom told me that she had enrolled me for a tech event. I was in seventh grade and was eagerly awaiting to participate in the Hack Day event, which was organized by Girls Innovate!. The day came and everything was so perfectly planned, not by adult volunteers but by the teen committee, which comprised of 10-15 girls. I still remember, starting from check-ins until the cleanup, all tasks were planned and run by girls, with Uyen being their advisor.

Hack Day event was just the beginning, which was followed by Design Thinking, Startup Series in Finance, and Live Pitching workshops. By participating in these events, I learned about what Lean Startup methodology is, how to make a business plan and the most important on how to pitch my idea in front of venture capitalists. I understood the importance of meeting milestones, being organized, and gained self-confidence. I realized that Girls Innovate! organization was providing a place for girls to hone their leadership potential. I made my mind and joined the teen committee. I was a little scared though, as I was the youngest in the committee.

Well, as George Bernard Shaw once stated, “Imagination is the beginning of creation.” I started my teen committee journey by being a mentor in the ThinkImagineProgram in summer of 2014, with David Epstein being my advisor. This program, which ran for 7 weeks, laid the foundation for girls in the field of STEM, by focusing on critical thinking and problem solving skills. Intense concepts like Recursion, Fibonacci Series, Bubble Sort, Binary Search, and many more algorithms were taught by doing hands-on activities in a group. It was really fun!

After the ThinkImagineProgram, Girls Innovate! gave me the opportunity to mentor at Steve & Kate’s camp in Fall 2014, where I introduced around 250 kids to Scratch programming language. These kids, who were around 5-10 years old, were glued to the projector screen, eager to know on how to create their own animated characters, interactive games, and stories. During the same time, via Girls Innovate!, I mentored in CodeCamp, a coding camp started by Stanford students in East Palo Alto for under-represented middle and high school kids. Both CodeCamp and Girls Innovate! taught me leadership skills and how to mentor these students by providing hints and not answers. This was one of the most lively programming camp, I had mentored. I laughed, learned, and really enjoyed it.

Other STEM programs that I lead through Girls Innovate! in Winter 2014 and Spring 2015 were the Design Code Build Program, Big Dream and Hour of Code. Design Code Build program was unique in itself, as it introduced hands-on coding not on a laptop or a tablet but on a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized mini-computer. Being the project leader, with another teen committee member, The Big Dream event that was hosted by Girls Innovate!, inculcated curiosity amongst the girls on how to follow their passion in STEM. Not only that, to celebrate Computer Science education week, Girls Innovate! participated in the global movement of ‘Hour of Code.’ I was first introduced to programming at an Hour of Code event two years back, where my interest in Computer Science sparked, and I wanted to pass it forward to more girls. Girls Innovate! gave me the opportunity to teach elementary kids Javascript through Khan Academy’s Hour of Drawing Tutorial. At first, I was a little hesitant but after discussing with Uyen and working on the curriculum with her, I was confident and decided to teach the girls. We were also able to do fundraising to cover the whole cost of renting the room. This was my first experience to teach young kids and I felt accomplished by seeing the glitter in their eyes when they presented their projects.

I believe that girls are the future of technology and am grateful to Girls Innovate! for providing such opportunities to not only the teen committee members, but also to hundreds and thousands of other girls to explore and use their imagination, creativity and innovation. I have learned so much, made many new friends, and had tremendous fun. I am really looking forward this year to do many more projects with Girls Innovate! and make a societal impact!

LYDIA SUN

I always overestimate the amount of time I’ve been with Girls Innovate. I remember thinking once, Yeah, it’s been about two years, and then realizing it’s been about half that time.

I think one of the reasons that I get so mixed up with the time is because a lot has happened over the course of the past year, both for me and for Girls Innovate. I first emerged on the scene as videographer for the startup series, back in about March of 2014. As I made more videos, I became more and more interested and involved – and eventually, I was adopted into the Teen Committee.

Since that time, I’ve had an absolutely awesome experience. We’ve hosted events covering business, finance, programming, communication, photography, and music; every one that I’ve been to has taught me something new or made me think about something in a different way. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, too, with TC meetings in libraries, at people’s houses, and on Google Hangouts. There were hours of planning and preparation; but also hours of reflection and bonding. I’ve been so impressed by the amount of hard work that I’ve seen – and by the extraordinary capabilities of the girls around me.

Events like our SLC discussions and especially the February Retreat brought us a lot closer together as a team. Personally, I got a chance to meet friends outside of school – and I didn’t realize until then how isolated I was from most things outside of Palo Alto. I loved hearing from different voices and perspectives. There’s one thing I know for sure: no matter what happens to the TC after this year, we have to keep in touch. Girls Innovate! would not be the same if we gradually branched off from each other.

But how would we do this? One of our biggest difficulties is getting everyone together at the same time – and I know this firsthand from the number of TC group pictures we’ve had to take. None of them include all the members. I’ve thought about it a bit, and one idea I came up with is based off of something a few companies do. These companies have one day a year where employees can work on any project they want – and the results are usually incredibly creative and productive. I thought we could apply this to TC on a smaller scale – have a huge meeting, possibly quarterly, where we 1. brainstorm 2. form a plan, and 3. assign roles and begin preparation. The idea is to make the most decisions and be the most productive when everyone is together and face-to-face. These meetings would probably be targeted towards series of events – coming up with an overall theme, the topics of individual workshops, and other logistics for each one. We could assign one group of girls to plan all aspects of one event in the series, or we could assign one group of girls to a specific role that they would carry out for all the events in the series.

Again, these are just some ideas that I’m throwing out there, and I’m open to suggestions. Since Uyen will likely be working closely with smaller groups of girls on their social impact projects, I thought these meetings would be a good way to keep events going.

I hope my ideas inspire some good brainstorming, and as I close, I want to thank everyone here for their role in Girls Innovate, no matter how small. It’s when many people come together to support something that an organization like Girls Innovate becomes possible. And no matter where we go in the next year, I can honestly say that I am proud to be a part of this experience.

LANGLEY TOPPER

I have had the honor to be a part of the Girls Innovate community for three years now. It has been an exciting journey to see how we have changed as people have come and gone, and our ideals and goals have undergone transformations. Three years ago we were hosting large events with multiple speakers; two years ago, a variety of casual teen brunches that allowed us to really talk with inspirational role models; last year, a series of single speaker workshops; and now, this year, we have focused on building our individual leadership skills.

I came to Girls Innovate looking for a group of curious, enthusiastic, passionate, and motivated girls with whom I could learn become a better visionary. Through all these changes Girls Innovate and the Teen Committee have always fulfilled that goal. I know that we don’t see each other very often, and unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to work with all of you on a project, but I consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by such a remarkable group of girls and parents.

I hope that in the coming year as we continue to develop our creativity, leadership, and public speaking skills that we can once again bring a wide range of workshops, speakers, and other offerings to the greater Bay Area community. There are so many girls out there that don’t benefit from motivational role models like Uyen or a strong supportive group of friends like the Teen Committee. I am certain that the morals and skills Girls Innovate has taught me could be useful to so many other middle and high schooler students. Together, I am confident that Girls Innovate will continue to be a platform for visionary leadership and the women of our future.

ERICA WANG

This year, I learned a lot through being a part of the Girls Innovate! Teen Committee. To start off, Girls Innovate!, when I first joined, was a very intimidating prospect to me. I was twelve at the time, and completely new to this kind of thing. It was scary sitting at the table during our first meeting, listening to people explaining things about things that I had never heard of before and, at that time, would have never have hoped to be able to understand. To be honest, from the first meeting, I think that about 99% of the stuff they put in one ear shot straight out of the other. And that’s how I thought it’d always be.

I was wrong, of course. Over the next few months, everything became so much smoother; so much more put together. I started learning a huge variety of skills and information that I still use almost every day today. This includes how to write an email, how to collaborate with others, how to think progressively, how to write — and so much more.

What I think I enjoyed most about being a part of Girls Innovate! is the many opportunities that opened up through it. Last spring, I got to work with another member of the committee on an event as a part of our start-up series. It was the first time I had worked on a collaborative project outside of school, and it was a great experience for me, as it exposed me to how the planning process worked.

That summer, I was informed about a coding camp for students from under-represented communities that was run by Stanford students, and I was invited to volunteer there. Though I was supposed to help the students learn, I, myself, learned so much during those three weeks. I got to meet so many new people as well.

Last December, I helped work on a project that involved gathering participants for a coding workshop at the Computer History Museum. It was my second project, and it was also an enriching experience for me. Seeing all the girls who signed up made me happy.

Another program I found through Girls Innovate! was Gavel Club. Designed to be based off an official Toastmasters program, the participants, aged 10-15, all gathered twice a month to learn about public speaking and gave speeches themselves. It was wonderful to see how each one of us improved over the course of the year.

I really hope that I can continue working with all the wonderful people I’ve met through the Teen Committee going forward.

SERENA WANG

I have been on the Teen Committee for about a year now. I can’t believe how much time has flown by already! When I first joined the TC, I was a little bit scared. New faces, new activities that seemed strange to me, and a fresh new start. But after a while, I got the hold of it and starting to make new friends and had a lot of fun being together with the TC. Google Hangout calls with special guests, hosting events for everybody, and meetings….they are now history inside my mind. They won’t be forgotten, they will be remembered. All of these things I did with the TC were very enjoyable, and I learned the true person inside myself.

You might be wondering, “We see your true self on the outside. What’s the difference?” The thing is, I have ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder. It means that I become hyper and it’s hard to focus. But I’ve been fighting it ever since I was first diagnosed with it. Take Blake Taylor for example. He has ADHD, but he wrote a book about what was like living with the disorder. He is currently in college now, yet his childhood was rough and bumpy with the negativity of the disorder. I want to say that I really loved how the TC was very flexible and supportive of me when I was still fighting this disorder throughout the years. I loved how everybody was very nice and generous to me.

Throughout the years, I expected that some of my friends would use me to blame for things I didn’t do. That’s a common stereotype of ADHD because of the hyperactivity and the attention deficit that makes the general public think this kid did something he didn’t do. From one of chapters in the book, “ADHD and Me: What I learned from lighting fires at the dinner table”, Blake is blamed by one of his teachers for making a big mess in the boy’s bathroom in school. Blake said he didn’t do it, but his teacher just uses his ADHD against him and had him clean up the mess. At this section, you might be, “What’s your point? What does this have to do with the TC?”. My point is, I loved the members of the TC since they were being flexible with me for having this disorder, and they accepted me as a normal person who loves being happy. And I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for this wonderful year I had with the TC. I will never forget this moment of my life. Thank you for listening to my speech.

CATHY ZHANG

I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Teen Committee right when it began in the fall of 2013. As such, I’ve been able to see firsthand how the TC has evolved over the course of almost 2 years, or as we also call it, “Chapter 1”. TC has given me the opportunity to challenge myself and explore my interests, and through Girls Innovate, I’ve learned to take initiative, discover my passions, and become a leader. Because of the importance of communication, I have learned how to effectively interview and be interviewed, write professional emails, and become a better public speaker. One of the highlights last year was when I worked with Celina to lead the Startup Finance Workshop; that was one of the first leadership experiences I’ve had. From there on, I led a team for the Technovation Challenge: something I’ve never done before either. I am very thankful the opportunities the Teen Committee has provided for me.

For “Chapter 2” of the Teen Committee, I think that we should focus on a select few social impact projects that a small group of TC members work collaboratively on for a long period of time. This time will allow the girls working on it to fully put their time in researching, planning, developing, and doing whatever their project may require. What TC members also need is more mentorship from professionals like parents and possibly speakers, which would greatly assist in these projects.

What I think is most valuable about this organization is the community it has created. We TC members are all like-minded girls with visions. Through the past year, the TC has really gotten to know each other, especially with the Retreat in February. Even if TC members aren’t Project Leaders for an event, we always come and give our support by working at the front door, asking for donations, or helping with the logistics.

Everyone who has been to an event or helped at an event is a part of this community. I am very excited for “Chapter 2” and hope that professionals will be able to help girls like us with devotion and passion to initiate inspiring projects next year.

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