Jacqueline Means, age 15, is excited to announce that she is organizing and hosting a special “Girls Empowerment” event, focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Fifty to 60 girls from the city of Wilmington, whose lives have been adversely impacted by poverty, will be invited to participate in the innovative, fun, and academically inspiring event. The event which will be held November 5th at the Parks & Recreation Municipal Building in Wilmington and the girls will be given free book bags and a tasty, nutritious lunch.
“I want them to believe in themselves,” says Means, “and show them that they can do anything they put their minds to.”
During the event Means will lead the girls in a teamwork-based STEM experiment, and also give them introductory chess lessons. Included in the program is an interactive Anti-Bullying presentation, when Means will share expert tips and strategies for appropriate and healthy social media and online posting behavior. “I love science and am on a mission to encourage more girls of color like myself to enter scientific and technological fields,” Means explains. “Those careers have traditionally been pursued by boys and men, so I want to encourage and inspire girls and show them that they, too, can follow this kind of career path.”
She intends to build upon the momentum of this first event to host similar STEM events every four months.
Means is already known to many within the community, thanks to her lifelong commitment to volunteerism. In 2015 she co-founded the highly successful nonprofit organization The Wilmington Urban Chess Initiative. At that time she only in middle school, but became inspired when her brother, with whom she co-founded the chess program, involved Means in neighborhood volunteer work at the Neighborhood House charity.
Although chess is great fun, Means explains that it also teaches critical thinking, problem-solving, respect for others, mental focus, goal-setting, and teamwork. Those are skills that are valuable both inside and outside of the classroom, to help kids succeed and make healthier choices in life. The chess program has attracted the attention of grant-funding organizations like the Disney Foundation and key policymakers including the Governor of Delaware and Senator Chris Coons.
As a mentor, guide, and role model for underserved youth, Means says she is always looking for new and different ways to engage other kids in empowering activities. Means found a way last Christmas, when she helped her brother with a toy drive and they distributed 100 new donated toys to underserved kids in the Wilmington community. Another of her passions is cheerleading, and she’s been involved with that since she was three years old.
“Cheerleading, track and field, and gymnastics are great exercise and fun,” Means says, “and they helped me build my confidence and gave me the opportunity to travel and interact with kids from diverse backgrounds, while practicing teamwork together. Now I want to make sure other kids have that same chance, no matter what difficult circumstances they may face in life.”