Build a Dream offers girls in Grades 9 to 12 exposure to new career pathways in trades, science, technology, engineering, and maths, and also serves to connect them with female role models in these fields.
The sixth annual Build a Dream consisted of four career expos held in Windsor on Nov. 7, Kitchener on Nov. 14, Port Elgin on Nov 19, and London on Nov. 26. The expos were a chance for high school girls to learn about the University of Windsor’s STEM programs as well as a chance to win an entrance scholarship in the Faculty of Science.
Last year’s science scholarship winner, Allyssa Poulin, is now a first-year student double majoring in math and computer science.
“I was very indecisive when I was in high school,” says Poulin. “I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do or study, and Build a Dream was introduced to me as a good opportunity to help me decide on a path.”
Poulin says there were posters and flyers all over her high school in Belle River, and teachers made attempts to encourage her and her friends to attend.
“There was encouragement from our teachers that we would get to see all these cool jobs at the Build a Dream event that we would be able to do in the future,” she says. “And for someone like me who really wanted to figure things out, it was an ideal experience.”
The most significant memory Poulin has from attending Build a Dream was an exhibit showcasing the use of virtual reality in the workplace.
“I was shown career paths that I had never thought about,” says Poulin. “Math and computer science were originally just hobbies of mine, but Build a Dream showed me how broad those fields really were, and the many opportunities they could open up for me.”
Build a Dream founder Nour Hachem, a major gifts officer with the University Campaign, says the organization creates an experience for young woman that helps them explore, connect, and learn about the different options available to them.
“We know that making decisions about a future career can be difficult so we hold these events to highlight career options that young women may not have considered,” says Hachem. “We want to motivate and inspire them to seek out opportunities and tackle careers or goals where they have a solid future. We want them to know their gender should not be part of that decision-making.”
Michelle Bondy, experiential learning specialist in the Faculty of Science, attends the annual event to share information and opportunities that could await the high school students should they pursue a degree in science or math.
“We have science alumni, as well as current undergraduate and graduate students, participating in Build a Dream as mentors,” says Bondy. “They are able to show what they love about their field, and they serve as role models to the girls in attendance.”
The Faculty of Science is not the only unit from the University of Windsor with representation at Build a Dream. The Faculty of Engineering also has representation and offers its own scholarship, and this year the Odette School of Business; the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; and the Faculty of Human Kinetics became involved as well.
“It was very inspiring,” says Poulin. “Prior to Build a Dream I hadn’t realized how many women were in the workforce in all these different fields. The experience made me realize that I could do these jobs too.”