[Image shows a headshot of Dana Garibaldi from the waist up and smiling, dressed in a white top and black blazer and wavy long hair. Background shows a brick tile wall.]
I-CREATE YOUTH is expanding to promote disability advocacy and social justice in all domains of life. We've always been interested in exploring youth involvement in STEM, and we were fortunate to have interviewed the wonderful Dana Garibaldi on her love for STEM, social justice activism, and even literature. Check out Miss Scientist here, and learn more about I-CREATE YOUTH at icreateyouth.wixsite.com/site.
ICY: Tell us about yourself—your background, hobbies, interests, and anything else you’d want others to know.
DG: My name is Dana Garibaldi and I'm a junior from South Texas. As for my background, I am a Latina and I immigrated from Mexico to the United States with my family when I was very young. Growing up, I loved to write and always took up different opportunities to lead, and over time I started to become more and more interested in the sciences, especially the biological sciences. As for my hobbies and interests, I love to read different works of literature (The Book Thief is my all-time favorite) and I occasionally write some poetry too. I also recently got into podcasting, which is a big surprise to me, and I'm currently involved in two different podcasts: Fun Times with Dana and Heidi (a positive news podcast) and GripTaped as part of the nonprofit youth education organization GripTape (check them out!). Finally, I love to watch indie movies and spend most of my free time working on events for my Science Olympiad team.
ICY: What inspired you to start your organization, Miss Scientist?
DG: During my middle school years, I was still exploring a lot of the different fields that the world of science had to offer. I participated in different activities and programs like science fairs, Science Olympiad competitions, and engineering camps, but I would notice that there was often a significant lack of female representation. Most of the female students like me tended to stick together, but I still couldn't help but feel isolated, insecure, and unconfident about my abilities. As time progressed, I began to learn more about the STEM gender gap and how it is a prevalent issue in our world, so I decided to address that during the pandemic by organizing a virtual conference called She Can STEM. This event featured speakers from NASA, Microsoft, Stanford University, and much more, all for the goal of encouraging young girls to pursue STEM careers, and sharing their experiences of scientific research from the female perspective. I loved the cause that I was fighting for in this conference, and given its success rate, I wanted to continue my work in women-in-STEM activism/education on a year-round basis, so I made Miss Scientist from the ground up. I am very passionate about the idea of giving girls confidence in primarily male-dominated fields, such as those in STEM, and overall I just love my organization, my team, and what I do.
ICY: Miss Scientist is all about addressing the gender gap in STEM; how have you been working towards that goal, through your organization and beyond?
DG: Our organization provides a variety of resources to our Latino-dominated community and beyond. We offer free STEM tutoring by partnering with the Tutoring Club at our school. We also create fun videos and articles available to everyone detailing different STEM and women-in-STEM topics, ranging from seasonal DIY experiments to the stories about often unrecognized yet significant historical female figures in the STEM fields. Finally, we host community STEM events for young girls at many locations such as local libraries and our school campus, but have also hosted virtual and nationally-available ones, such as our trivia night and our Women In STEM panel at the New York Intrepid Museum Youth Summit. Beyond Miss Scientist, as I previously mentioned, I organized the She Can STEM Virtual Event, and I was ecstatic about the results. We had over 70 registrants worldwide for the event, and I was absolutely blown away by the inspiring stories of perseverance and grit that the speakers offered. In addition to having professional female scientists speak about their experiences at the event, I also wanted young girls to have opportunities for them to exercise their budding passions for the sciences in real time, so I partnered with a variety of organizations, such as 1,000 Girls, 1,000 Futures, Girl Genius Magazine, and more, to discuss the resources and programs they had to offer young girls who were interested in STEM. Finally, I've also been working towards my goal of bringing more young girls into the STEM fields by doing other side projects. For instance, I hosted a local summer camp called the Beyond STEM Summer Camp with a friend, which was welcome to students of all backgrounds, most of which ended up being Hispanic. In the camp, we often featured female scientists in a variety of fields, ranging from computer scientists at Texas A&M University to medical researchers at Harvard Medical School, in an effort to show that being a scientist is not gendered in any way, but rather is a career field that is open to anyone who has a passion for what they do and wants to change the world for the better.
ICY: In addition to your involvement in STEM, you're also one of the founders of Fun Times with Dana and Heidi that focuses on positivity. What does it mean to spread positivity and why is that so valuable in our current society?
DG: My friend Heidi and I founded the Fun Times podcast over the pandemic, a time where nearly all of the news stories being published were reporting deaths, police brutality, and many other extremely depressing and negative topics. We noticed that for many of the people around us, this constant negativity was having an impact on their mental health, so we wanted to provide a source of hope for them during that tumultuous time through the positive news stories we told on the podcast. Today, we are still continuing with our mission, as we want to continue to be that light of hope or even escape for others that could be going through rough patches in their life. To me, having a positive mindset has completely changed how I approach different challenges in my life, and has helped me grow immensely as an individual from a very pessimistic, worrisome person to a more optimistic person with a can-do attitude. Overall, nobody can go wrong with spreading positivity, as it brings joy to the lives of others, and you never know when they might need that the most.
ICY: I’ve been so inspired by your experience as a woman in STEM and as a volunteer. Do you have any advice to give to youth on taking a similar path in social justice and STEM?
DG: My main advice would be to not be afraid to make that big leap and just pursue your goals. Before starting Miss Scientist, I was afraid that the project would be too large or unfeasible to execute, but because I was so passionate about getting it done, I was able to make that goal a reality. Don't hold yourself back and just do it. Another piece of advice that I have is to keep your head high and stay true to yourself in the face of obstacles. Even when others or the world seems to tell you that you can't do it, you always have the capacity to overcome any hurdle if you are willing to put in the work and the time. Never give up!