Posing with the mentoring award certificate that WINS received in Washington D.C. are (left to right) Betsy Payne, manager of the WINS program; Latasha Harling, a WINS graduate and current board member of the program; Mazina Adams, a 2018 graduate of the program and a student at Drexel in biomedical engineering; and Jacquie Genovesi, Vice President of Education at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
After 35 years of helping young women in Philadelphia graduate and strive for careers in STEM, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University’s Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program has received an award from the White House for its work.
WINS is a program dedicated to introducing high school-aged girls with demonstrated financial needs to STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] careers through after-school and summer programming. Tuesday, in light of its success over the decades — resulting in a 100 percent high school graduation rate among its student participants — the program was named a winner in the “Organizational” category of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.
“The WINS program is a model for mentoring programs all across the country,” said Betsy Payne, manager of the WINS program. “I am elated that WINS, which includes all the people that have worked on it throughout the years, received this recognition. It will open the door to new opportunities for the girls.”
Betsy Payne (far right) teaching students about salt marshes on site in Smyrna, Delaware. Courtesy of the USA State Department, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs.
“We are honored to receive this award on behalf of all the Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) alumnae,” said Jacquie Genovesi, PhD, vice president of Education at the Academy and an assistant clinical professor in Drexel’s School of Education, who traveled to Washington with Payne and others from the program to receive the award.
WINS was selected as one of 14 “organizational” winners. It will receive $10,000 to support the program which is free to all participants.
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring recognize “outstanding efforts of mentors in encouraging the next generation of innovators and developing a science and engineering workforce that reflects the diverse talent of America.” It is given out by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with the National Science Foundation (NSF).
WINS students learning, hands-on, about geology and paleontology in Montana with Academy of Natural Sciences Dinosaur Hall Coordinator Jason Poole. Photo by Betsy Payne.
Started in 1982, WINS has introduced hundreds of young women who need a little boost to careers in science. Participants take part in everything from classroom-based learning to research opportunities with scientists and college visits with their WINS-provided mentors.
Overall, every single student who participated in the program went on to graduate from high school — almost double the graduation rate in Philadelphia — and 97 percent have gone on to attend college.
One former student had high praise for the program, which she related to Genovesi.
Rabiyatu Jalloh, a WINS participant, preparing plant specimens for the Botany collections at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Photo by Betsy Payne.
“WINS is not an important program, it is the important program,” the former participant said. “It is not just a science program for young girls, but it is an enrichment program that builds confidence and preparedness for college. It is a positive environment for growing and learning about yourself. WINS provided me with the confidence and skills to be successful, and I hope it can do the same for many other young girls."
While the award is high praise and national-level recognition for decades of work, those involved in the program don’t plan to rest on their laurels. They’re already striving to build up their offerings for engineering, where less than 20 percent of degrees are held by women.
“Our plan is to not only expand this project to other in- and out-of-school settings nationwide, but also to diversify the content and discipline reach of the WINS program,” Genovesi said. “We believe that if you give young women the confidence and skills to be successful, success can be attained in any STEM field, even those where women, especially women of color, are most under-represented.”