Step Up club extends science opportunities to younger students


Emma Ka

Officers of the Step Up club present all the STEM courses offered at Amador and give advice to members interested in taking them.

Emma Ka, Staff Writer

This year, as part of their mission to promote gender equality in STEM, Amador Valley Step Up is organizing a contest for elementary and middle school students. The club hopes to foster an interest in science early on by inviting those interested to create a video or presentation about any science subject, current event, or recent development. 

“I attended a lot of math and computer science competitions when I was in middle school. However, I noticed the disparity between the number of women and men and definitely felt more left out. I remember being unable to join a group during the team competition for Mathcounts since the boys wanted other boys who were the same ‘level,’” said Joanna Zhu (‘22), President of Step Up.

AV Step Up was started in 2019 in an effort to inspire young women to pursue careers in STEM and to overcome the underrepresentation they face in the field. Traditionally, the club holds an annual competition in April called Girls Mathletics, inviting girls to solve challenging questions in both individual and team rounds. However, as they wanted to preserve safe COVID-19 health guidelines this year, they opted for an online contest instead.

“I wanted to create a competition that middle-school me would’ve loved and begin building communities for girls and non-binary members starting from a young age,” said Zhu.

Despite significant progress in the development of gender equality, women’s access to education and opportunities in the workforce remain severely limited for STEM. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women only make up 28% of the workforce — 48% as biological scientists, 25.2% in computer and mathematical occupations, and only 16.5% as engineers. 

“I think as a high school club, we’re doing our part on a local level with these mini projects and contests. It’s a great way for us high school students with similar interests to support each other and also reach out to younger girls. I hope that with all the organizations working towards this goal, we will see an increase in proportions in the future,” said Isabelle Lo (‘23), officer of Step Up.

Aside from providing more opportunities through competitions, AV Step Up also invites empowering female guest speakers and introduces additional opportunities to members such as summer camps and extracurricular activities. All of this is to fulfill their primary goal of creating a safe, supportive community for girls here at Amador. To achieve this, officers and older members of the club seek to build connections with younger students as well. 

“I want to help the next generation of scientists and mathematicians because they’re an integral part of our future, and I wish I had some kind of guidance back then. If they need someone to look to when they feel lost, Step Up is there for them,” said club member Myra Qin (‘23)

Step Up club is an extension of a national program dedicated to providing mentorship and classroom lessons for young women to encourage them to pursue undergraduate physics. Mrs. Barnett Dreyfuss, who teaches AP Physics C here at Amador, is the ambassador program coordinator.

“I would encourage them to try a physics class. There’s a lot to read about it, Youtube videos and articles that go way up in the subject. It can be really putting-off — that looks too hard, I don’t want to do that. But there are a lot of science communicators that want to get physics available to everybody, so finding a few people you connect well with or you understand what they’re explaining and just learning more about it because physics is everywhere and in every field,” said Bree Barnett Dreyfuss, physics teacher.