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DukeEngage students arrive from North Carolina to inspire girls in STEM

COSTA MESA, CA: What happens when you combine the immersive service experience of a world-renowned East Coast university with a dynamic girls-only summer camp on the West Coast? That’s what Girls Incorporated of Orange County is learning this summer by welcoming eight Duke University students from North Carolina as part of the DukeEngage program, specifically designed to encourage Duke University undergraduates’ service learning and civic engagement. Since 2007, DukeEngage has provided one-time funding for over 3,000 undergraduates to volunteer to help meet a community need locally, domestically or internationally in over 78 nations. While in the past international DukeEngage projects were emphasized, in recent years the program has begun to focus on domestic placements. Simultaneously, Duke University’s Global Women’s Health Technologies, formed in 2013, was looking for a partner with whom it could share efforts to empower women through technology, education, and solutions. Girls Inc. of Orange County, which encourages girls to enter the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields that women are often underrepresented in, seemed like the perfect fit.

The DukeEngage students worked directly with Girls Inc. of Orange County’s Eureka! Manager, Cathleen Chase, and STEM Manager, Christie Pearce, to develop a week-long curriculum for the Girls Inc. Eureka! program. Eureka!, a four week summer camp held at both Santa  Ana College and Golden West College every July, exposes Orange County middle-school and high-school girls to the many facets of STEM. Through fun, hands-on workshops, girls are able to discover and explore different career paths and plan their futures. Eureka! also includes fitness, nutrition, and personal development activities that encourage girls to be healthy, strong, and self-confident. In addition to implementing their engineering curriculum at Eureka!, the Duke students will help facilitate Girls Inc. programs in topics such as Living Safe & Strong and College Bound.

Jaleelah Abdulai, a senior at Duke University majoring in Sociology, specializing in Medical Sociology and minoring in Chemistry, plans to attend medical school and become a cardiologist. On why she wanted to volunteer with Girls Inc. of Orange County specifically, Abdulai stated: “I wanted to work with Girls Inc. because of their dedication to the empowerment of girls in all areas of life, although more specifically in STEM. In middle school, my female science teachers were always amongst my favorite – they showed me that my interest in the sciences is welcomed. Girls Inc. provides me with the opportunity to impact these girls in the same way my teachers have before.” Likewise, Aitana Zermeno, a junior Biology major at Duke University said, “I was inspired to pursue science, and I hope to pass the inspiration along to the current generation of girls.”

The DukeEngage students will be volunteering with Girls Inc. of Orange County until August 15th. Through the scope of their work, they hope to serve as positive, accessible, role models that will inspire girls to pursue college careers in any field. In the words of Rohini Paul, a sophomore at Duke University: “As a passionate feminist and advocate for the healthy development of women, I wanted to volunteer with Girls Inc. of Orange County because of my desire to further the intellectual, social, and personal enrichment of girls and women in society!”

For more information on Eureka!, please contact Eureka! Manager, Cathleen Chase, at For more information on DukeEngage, please contact program leader Christine Mulvey at

About Girls Incorporated of Orange County: Established in 1954 as the Harbor Area Girls Club, Girls Inc.® of Orange County has been a respected member of the non-profit community for over 60 years. The mission of Girls Inc. is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. We put our mission into practice through the Girls Inc. experience that equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow into healthy, educated and independent adults. Girls Inc. of Orange County positively changes the lives of over 5,000 girls, ages 5 to 18, each year, by providing year-round holistic, compensatory, and intentional programming focusing on STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), financial literacy, sound body image, healthy relationships, and college and career readiness.


Learn more about Girls Inc. in Orange County, California.