Girls Excelling In Math and Science of Prince George’s County (GEMS-PGC)is an after-school enrichment program for girls attending public middle schools in Prince George’s County. University of Maryland (UMD) College Park Scholars and other undergraduates majoring in math, science and engineering volunteer as GEMS mentors. The mentor/mentee relationships are critical to the success of our after-school program. The mentors facilitate the activities and serve as role models. We design the activities to encourage inquiry-based learning and the practice of science skills. GEMS activities include field trips to science-related research sites and guest presenters from the University and the community. We aim to increase the girls’ interest in pursuing studies and careers in math, science and engineering (STEM) fields.
We have chosen to work with middle school girls because this is an age when ideas about possible occupations start to crystallize. Moreover, decisions taken at this age influence the choice of science and mathematics courses taken in high school and, as such, access to educational opportunities in science, mathematics, technology and engineering at the college level.
The three middle schools in which GEMS is active serve low- and middle-income communities of ethnic and linguistic minorities. The schools are within a 4-mile radius of UMD College Park; and this geographical proximity creates the opportunity for the University to connect with its surrounding community. Getting to know university students on a personal basis and to create a year-long mentor-mentee relationship can be a life-changing experience for the middle school “GEMS,” most of whom are potentially first-generation college students.