SHE-CAN Scholar's Take the Lead project provides low-income students with health insurance, aims to reduce dropouts - by Christiane Umutoni
First, I introduced my project to the community service club at my former school because they still tutor primary kids every Saturday. They agreed to work with me on my project because helping those kids gain access to medical care was going to help them stay healthy and therefore study well. I also visited the primary school, which is near my former school, to discuss my project with the school headmaster who oversaw the selection of the 10 kids from poor families whom I was going to give insurance cards. After talking with the community service club and the headmaster, I moved on to different activities such as raising the money needed, paying the insurance and finally giving the insurance cards to the selected kids.
I faced some challenges throughout my project, but I invested everything I could to overcome those challenges and finish my project successfully. Some challenges included raising the money needed for the insurance and figuring out my transportation to and from my former school every time I visited. I overcame these challenges by selling popcorn. My family helped by giving me a small amount of money to buy the corn kernels, and my former school helped me with salt, oil and the materials I used to make the popcorn. I sold the popcorn during one movie night and raised enough money to pay for the insurance cards!
Another challenge I faced was managing all aspects of my project while simultaneously attending my ACT classes and completing regular practices to prepare myself for the exam. This was challenging because I took the exam before my project was complete. Sometimes my schedule and that of the community service club members conflicted, but I did all that I could to be flexible enough to make my project continue as planned and pass the ACT too - which I did!
On June 17, I went to the primary school to officially give the kids their insurance cards. Some of the parents also came to meet me, and they were happy because of my project. I’m glad that everything worked out. I’d like to see these happy faces again in the future and because of that I plan to work on other community service related projects that will make significant impacts in the lives of many people in my community.
I’m thankful to be in this amazing SHE-CAN family, where I’m being transformed into a responsible leader who knows how to come up with solutions to different problems in her community. I look forward to more challenges that will shape me into a strong woman who’s ready to brighten not only her future, but the future of her country!
SHE-CAN Scholar aspires to improve Rwanda's infrastructure after graduation, presents research at SVURS Symposium - by Assumpta Gasana
My goal as a future civil engineer is to aid in the development of Rwanda by helping create better and safer roads, railroads and bridges that will help connect Rwanda’s rural areas to the cities. Although Rwanda has this type of infrastructure, I believe that there's still more that can be done, and I want to participate in the improvement of these parts of my home country.
When I realized how important developing this part of Rwanda is, I decided to take action towards understanding what's going on right now. A friend told me about Professor Corrie Walton-Macaulay from the Civil Engineering Department. I went to his office and told him I have an idea and I want to do research but I don’t know where to start. Corrie had never met me until that day but he said, “okay!” I was a stranger to him but after hearing my ideas he immediately agreed to help me and was eager to get to work. I was shocked and so grateful. To have someone like him not only believe in my ideas and research, but want to be a part of the process and help means the world.
This past summer, I stayed on campus to conduct research with Professor Walton-Macaulay as my adviser. My research is about assessing a transportation network in northwest Rwanda for its resilience against natural disasters - more specifically flooding and earthquakes. I also work closely with Janine Glathar, Bucknell’s Digital Pedagogy & Scholarship Specialist for GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Janine has helped me with technical problems throughout my research, and she’s somebody I can count on even when something doesn’t go well. She motivates me and she’s good at finding solutions.
By working closely with these two Bucknell professionals, I’ve learned so much about what it really means to be a civil engineer. This project gives me clear tangible knowledge and background about what I want to do in the future and how I can contribute to Rwanda’s development after graduation.
On August 2, I presented my research at a poster session at the 7th Annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by Bloomsburg University. Students from other schools in the region presented posters and judges walked around asking about our research. The judges were doctors, engineers, professors and many professionals who worked in similar sectors attended. I answered questions and talked about my research during the morning session. Many people didn’t know about Rwanda so I got to talk about my home and how my research is relevant to its development.
I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Digital Pedagogy & Scholarship Office to continue my research throughout this semester. Conducting research after your freshman year, especially working directly with a professor, is usually not easy or common but Bucknell University makes sure that you have as many opportunities to do research and internships throughout your college career. I’m thankful for the expertise and guidance of Professor Walton-Macaulay and Janine Glathar, and I look forward to helping create a better future for Rwanda as a civil engineer!
Chartine: Earlier this year, SHE-CAN sent out an email explaining that I was looking for an internship in aviation engineering. The response was overwhelming. The community rose up, not only my mentors, but mentors from other scholars' teams helped direct me towards Zipline since the company perfectly aligned with my internship hopes. I applied, successfully landed the interviews and was offered the internship in June! I had support from many individuals in the SHE-CAN network and am truly thankful to everyone that help made this dream a reality.
SHE-CAN: Since the internship was based in California, where did you stay in regards to housing? Was it with someone within the SHE-CAN network?
Chartine: I met a woman named Diane Philips at one of SHE-CAN’s fundraising dinners, who then connected me to her friend, Gretchen McDougall. Gretchen didn’t know much about the organization, until Diane called her asking if she had an extra room to host me. Even before meeting me, Gretchen opened her house to me and allowed me to stay with her during my internship. She even offered to drive me to places I needed to go to since I had no car. She was really wonderful and supportive throughout the summer. We became really close and even took a trip together one weekend and spent time with her friends. Since she knew how much I liked avionics, she took me to Sonoma at a place where I could fly an airplane!
SHE-CAN: What attracted you to interning at Zipline International Inc.?
Chartine: What attracted me was their mission. Many engineering positions just look at creating the next big thing or developing the current existing models, but Zipline also wants to help provide access of blood to those remote areas that don’t have access to it. They want to save someone who otherwise might have probably died if not reached in time. Another aspect is that it’s a small company and very fast paced. While there, you have an opportunity to learn things across different fields, and there’s never a dull moment because there’s always projects that need to be worked on. It’s very independent and flexible. Everybody’s invested in your growth as long as you ask for help.
SHE-CAN: As an intern what were your responsibilities? Can you describe a typical day?
Chartine: As an intern, my typical day varied from time to time. It started with a check in call with my team. Everyone was placed on a team depending on what you were working on. During that meeting in the morning, we discussed what we had achieved, what we planned on doing the entire day and asked for help if we needed it. Afterwards, everybody would dive into their work until you felt like you had exhausted the day. My main area of focus was testing. That meant designing and making machines that performed mechanical and performance tests.
SHE-CAN: How many days did you work a week, and how many hours did you work a day?
Chartine: The number of hours I worked per week, or daily, depended on the day and how long I had until the deadline of my project. Normal work hours were from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but I never found myself working within these hours. It all depended on the projects that I was working on. Everybody at Zipline loves their job and what they do, that they end up staying longer hours than required. Additionally, whenever the ideas were still flowing it was better to keep working until we were exhausted.
SHE-CAN: What’s the most memorable moment from your internship?
Chartine: My most memorable moment was when I got my first project to work. I was scared at first of not being able to deliver or to succeed on what was asked of me. The first time when the machine that I was working on worked and started moving I was really happy, and my boss was happy too which made me even more excited.
SHE-CAN: What has your internship taught you?
Chartine: My internship taught me many important lessons including: how to apply the knowledge I acquired in class directly to my internship, how to dissect a problem and make it simple to the point of solving it and how to be independent and dependent by working in a team of people.
It taught me patience and persistence, since sometimes you have to completely change the direction that you were taking your project into. Also, I learned that sometimes the most sophisticated solutions aren’t the ones that are needed. Rather looking at the moment and determining what’s important for that particular case always works better. Additionally, my internship taught me leadership skills and how to ask for help! Asking for help is important because your success is the team’s success.
SHE-CAN: What are your future goals after graduating from college, and how did interning at Zipline help you achieve those goals?
Chartine: Although I haven’t decided what I want to specialize in, Zipline further proved I’ve chosen the right major by giving me an opportunity to explore many areas within mechanical engineering. Ultimately, my goal is to keep working at a fast paced place that stimulates my thoughts and capacities and pushes me to the limits. My internship went by so fast, but it was the opportunity of a lifetime!
SHE-CAN Scholar's Take the Lead project, a seminar on college life, draws 300+ attendees - by Sopharoth (Rosie) Ith
I decided to host the seminar because I recognize the shortage of available help for students when it comes to preparing for university life. Since Cambodia used to experience the Khmer Rouge Regime, when educated people were killed, Cambodia’s now a country where not many people receive enough education. While only 40% of the population can complete high school, university has become less important. Thus, there are only small amounts of resources available for students to research what it’s like at universities.
A similar seminar is done annually by a group of university students. However, participants have to pay for the tickets which isn’t always accessible for all students. Knowing this I made my seminar free! More importantly, it was held in Khmer language so that regardless of rich or poor those who could or couldn’t speak English would be able to receive the information.
To make the contents of my seminar more relevant and reliable, I created a survey that asked several university students to answer some questions and provide tips they would give to others. With the information I collected from the survey, I conducted more research before presenting my findings in my seminar.
I’ve learned a lot from the project. First, I learned how important help is when everything gets messy. Since there were a lot of participants, I wasn’t able to handle the crowd’s attention well. However, after receiving help from my friends, I was able to calm everyone down and make them sit in their given seats. I also learned that everything doesn’t always go as planned so having a backup plan is important. During the seminar, some participants got bored of the speeches and they started to talk rather than listen. This frustrated me the most, so I decided it’d be a good idea to take a short break and asked them to play games for a few minutes. This allowed them to refresh their minds, and afterwards they were able to concentrate until the end of the seminar.
Eventually, I realized that in order to make the project sustainable, I needed to make the information presented during the seminar accessible to students from other schools, as well as other generations. So I created a blog that covered all the information and tips, similar to what was given in the seminar, in hopes that the knowledge will spread out to more than just the hundreds of participants that attended my seminar.
Back when I was a high school student, one of my dreams was to eventually give back to my high school and community. Through my Take the Lead project, not only did I learn new information beyond what’s available in school but I fulfilled that dream!
Read stories written by our talented scholars and multiple voices across the SHE-CAN network