Through Girl Scouts, Gabriella M. Wilkerson met impressive women in science, technology, engineering and math fields including Sylvia Acevedo, a former Girl Scout CEO and rocket scientist for NASA. Such meetings helped inspire Wilkerson to pursue her passion for physics.
Now a freshman at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, studying physics and dance, the 19-year-old independent Girl Scout from Leeds completed a science-related project to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world for girls.
Her project created a free and fun resource for STEM exploration for late elementary school to middle school students. “Do Try This At Home” science kits aim to spark or fuel a passion for sciences in students so that when they get to high school they can see themselves as science people. “It shows kids that science is not about knowing every answer, but about exploring and discovering,” Wilkerson said.
With the help of staff at the Springfield Science Museum, Girl Scout mentors, a translator and her physics teacher at Northampton High School, she created six science experiment kits in English and Spanish and two videos for one of the kits. “Originally, the kits were meant to be physical, but when the pandemic broke out, we made the kits virtual instead,” she said.
The kits are accessible on the Springfield Museum’s website, springfieldmuseums.org/blog/try-home-magicians-table.
“It’s a well-known fact that STEM fields are not diverse. There are many factors that play into that,” Wilkerson said. “If students feel like they aren’t cut out for science or math, they can start identifying themselves as ‘not that type of person.’”
Wilkerson, a 2020 graduate of Northampton High School, is considering teaching as a career, but she also is interested in research and curious about environmental engineering. She will spend the next few years exploring physics and discovering a career path. “I hope that whatever I end up doing has a positive impact on the local and or global community, so that will definitely be a driving force in what I ultimately decide to do,” she said.
She has been a Girl Scout for nine years. “Girl Scouting has always felt like a choose-your-own-adventure book for me. It is a broad program with the sole focus of helping girls become the best person they can be,” she said. “I love adventure, being outside and creating positive change in my community. Girl Scouts has given me many opportunities to do that.”
She has assisted at Camp Lewis Perkins and received first aid and CPR certifications. “Girl Scouts gave me lots of hands-on experience in leadership,” she added. As a delegate to the National Council Session and as a member of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts’ Board of Directors, she learned how a large non-profit is run.
“Girl Scouting is more than just cookies,” the Gold Award recipient said. “Girl Scouting is taking risks and pursuing your passion and pulling your own weight. The program teaches girls to go into the world and make it their own. That’s what a Gold Award is.”