South Florida Sun Sentinel Sheds Spotlight on DeVry University's HerWorld Program

Girls learn valuable lessons in Miramar

A day at the Miramar Town Center for about 200 girls in high school focused on one message: Get an education.

The day was part of DeVry University South Florida's HerWorld. Through a mix of guest speakers and group activities, the event's goal was to encourage girls to pursue careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

"We want to educate them about the possibilities and have them think differently," said Keisha Smith, the university's director of outreach and student services.

Alicia Blain, founder of The Millennial Lab, highlighted her points by relating them to the Pixar film "Up," where a retired old man decides to realize a lifelong dream of a trip to South America following the death of his wife.

"You have to visualize your future and do everything you can to turn that dream into a reality," Blain said.

Three-time Olympic medalist Mia Hamm related an experience in school where she was encouraged to focus on her studies and not just on soccer and described the experience of winning the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

"You only get to hear the national anthem if you win the gold medal," Hamm said. "Standing up there wasn't a fluke. We invested in it and sacrificed for it."

Hamm has kept busy after retiring from soccer — she recently gave birth to her third child, travels across the country as a motivational speaker, and runs a nonprofit foundation to raise funds for bone marrow transplants. Hamm said there are several issues facing the high school girls, including having equal opportunities and equal pay for the same work as men. As a mother of twin girls, Hamm said she envisions a future for them where more women are breaking glass ceilings.

"I hope more women are filling those positions, and that eventually we're not talking about it being a first," she said.

The girls participating in the event came from high schools in Broward and Miami-Dade. As part of a teamwork exercise, they were put into groups in a timed competition to assemble a robot. The first team to assemble their robot and demonstrate its functions won prize packs, including a camcorder and a flashlight.

Figuring out the robot wasn't too much of a problem for Cassie West, 16, who was part of the winning team. West, a student at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs, said she is planning on becoming a child psychologist and found Hamm's speech to be inspirational.

"It's important to try harder. If I don't do it, no one else can," West said.

Gaspa Jucelyne, a senior at Miami Norland Senior High, said building the robot was a fun activity. She plans to be a nurse and said the HerWorld experience was helpful.

To read the full article written by Chris Guanche, please visit the

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