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Program helps girls explore career options

Hopeful and scared, she hands her father a hammer but is quickly and abruptly told to go inside.

Peering out the kitchen window, she sees her father nailing the plywood to her family’s home. Her dream of becoming more than a housewife is in that moment crushed.

This first encounter leads her to believe that women are limited.

Expanding Your Horizons is a nationwide program started in 1976, that targets young girls in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

Girls this age are considered to be at a vulnerable age and tend to decline in their math and science skills due to unequal education or experience an early pregnancy.

Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) participants believe that it is never too early to begin plans for the future.

Tyler Junior College was been part of EYH since 1991. In 2007, over 600 middle school girls attended the EYH conference.

“We know [Expanding Your Horizons] is [successful]. Since we started doing EYH nationally, there’s been a huge increase in the STEM fields,” said Jackie Littleton, director of American Association of University Women.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Littleton also said that she feels there are gaps between the number of men and women in math- and science-related fields.

As a result, EYH is designed to prevent anything that may limit a young ladies’ career choices by inviting them to take part in a student career program once every year.

They can enroll in various workshops including Health Science, Industry and Engineering, Agriculture and Science, Personal, Protective, and Human Services and Business and Marketing.

The workshops are lead by professional women who are integrating math and science skills in their current jobs. These workshops offer hands-on experience to young girls.

Expanding Your Horizons, however, is not just limited to raising career awareness in young girls but also offers a program for adults and teachers.

“The whole purpose is to see all types of careers, expand your horizons to different careers,” said Vickie Geisel, co-chair of EYH.

Dr. Geisel also said that at the end of the conference, an EYH member pulls a young girl’s name out of a hat and awards her school $1,000 toward math or science related electronics.

Although Dr. Geisel is retiring this year, she is still amazed at what 18 years of EYH has accomplished at Tyler Junior College.

“I just remember one lady who went into engineering because of EYH. She saw women could go into a male dominant field,” said Geisel.

Dr. Geisel also spoke of a dedicated father who drove back and forth between Tyler and Kilgore so he could take his little girls to the conference every year in March. His devotion allowing them to attend the conference changed their perspectives.

The registration fee for Expanding Your Horizons is $8 and is sponsored through organizations and companies in the Tyler community.

EYH also offers a scholarship to TJC that is presented to a previous EYH participant each year.

“The sponsors are usually friends of EYH already,” said Michele Knox, support services.

The next conference will be held March 28.

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