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Austin Non-Profit Girlstart Expands Nationally

Horia Varlan
Austin non-profit aimed at drawing girls into STEM education is getting ready to expand nationally.

A local organization that wants to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is beginning to branch out across the United States. Girlstart began in Austin in 1997, and provides free after-school programs, summer camps, and Saturday classes for girls.

“STEM is a national priority. There aren’t enough graduates in America than can fill STEM jobs,” Girlstart executive director Tamara Hudgins told KUT News.

Women fill close to half the jobs in the United States economy, but a report issued this month by the U.S. Department of Commerce shows they only have one-quarter of STEM jobs.

Girlstart held summer camps in Washington, California, and Colorado.  Hudgins says they get their programs into other cities mainly by partnering with Boys and Girls Clubs.

This expansion into other states follows a rapid growth of the organization in Austin. This year, Girlstart is offering after-school programs at 25 campuses in Central Texas. That was almost double last year’s 13 campuses. In the fall of 2009, Girlstart was in four schools.

“More girls are thinking about STEM majors. They’re thinking, ‘I could be a computer scientist. I could be a meteorologist. I realize that building video games is fun,’” Hudgins said.