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ICYMI: 17-year-old NASA trainee spends the day with STEM GEMS

The STEM GEMS Mentoring Project and KAWD Art Gallery of Baton Rouge hosted a STEM GEMS Saturday: STEM +Art Edition on Saturday, August 11th from 6-8 PM.  The event also featured STEM GEMS Ambassador and NASA phenom Alyssa Carson.  Alyssa Carson is a 17-year-old Baton Rouge native who attends Baton Rouge International and is being trained by NASA to become the first woman to travel to Mars by the year 2033.
Alsie Dunbar’s passion for empowering women and young girls in her community through STEM led the founding effort of the STEM GEMS Mentoring Project in 2013.  Through the STEM GEMS Mentoring Project, she promotes the interests of Girls Excelling in Math and Science through mentoring and encouraging them to pursue careers and advanced degrees in STEM majors where women and minorities are underrepresented. The mentoring program originated in Ascension Parish and quickly spread to several surrounding parishes such as Iberville, St. Helena, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist. To date, the initiative has mentored over 400 girls in conjunction with the Ascension Parish School Board successfully, with five participants receiving Student of the Year distinctions.

All campers from August 11th’s STEM GEMS Saturday.

This edition of STEM GEMS Saturday: STEM + Art Edition was a great success. “It was a bit different from the other workshops that have I done but there was lot of symbolism and thought provoking dialogue that took place with this group of awesome and inquisitive young girls,” said STEM GEMS creator, Alsie Dunbar.
For Dunbar, curating this particular workshop was more intentional. The girls were able to meet and receive instruction from Kristen Downing, a nationally known female artist and owner of KAWD Art Gallery in Baton Rouge, and speak to a world renowned NASA astronaut in training. They were also able to meet with other female STEM professionals. “With Louisiana being at the bottom of every list for everything possible in this country,  positive exposure is key,” Dunbar says. “Hence, representation matters.” 
To complete the evening, The STEM GEMS Mentoring Project and Alyssa Carson’s NASA Blueberry Foundation received a surprise. Artist Kristen Downing revealed a portrait of Alyssa Carson in honor of her endeavors and her quest to make history.

Alyssa Carson and Kristen Downing of KAWD Art Gallery.

The painting will be on display at her art gallery until it is purchased and all proceeds will be donated to both non-profits to help fund more STEM engagement. 
Alsie Dunbar wishes to express special thanks to the sponsors for this edition of STEM GEMS Saturday: Kristen Downing with KAWD Art, LSU College of Science, Anjave Barnes with The Den Consulting, Lance’s Inflatables and Balloons, Casey Phillips, The Futures Fund, Alyssa Carson, Tamerick Zachary, and to all who came and showed their support. “The STEM GEMS Mentoring Project appreciates you,” said Dunbar.
The STEM GEMS Mentoring Project will be relaunching later this month with a social media campaign that will be unveiled at an August 18th event with details forthcoming.  This campaign will be geared towards helping young women and girls as well as minorities realize that they can change the perception of what a STEM professional and an academic scholar looks like.
For more information, please visit the to see updates and to learn more about the organization.

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