Naples organization makes scholarship available for women pursuing STEM careers

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
STEM student Avery Anderson. Credit: WINK News

Science, technology, engineering and math fields are still largely dominated by men, but we’re starting to see a shift as more women get into them. The American Association of University Women in the Greater Naples area is doing its part to help.

The organization has created the Blanche and John Rebar Scholarship to help pay for a year of college for students interested in STEM. Avery Anderson is one of the recipients; she’s pursing a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics with a double minor in emergency management and aviation safety. She didn’t always dream of a life in the sky, but one class in high school changed all that.

“I took the history of aviation and then wound up loving the class, stayed throughout the entire time in high school and then flew and got my private pilot’s license,” Anderson said.

Turns out that wasn’t enough for her, so Anderson set her sights on a career in the aeronautics industry.

“The STEM scholarship focuses on science, technology, engineering and math,” said Jeannie Hagedorn, scholarship director for the Greater Naples AAUW Foundation. “High school senior females that are entering those career paths. So it actually isn’t financial need-based, it’s focused on young girls that have phenomenal academic records that are entering those fields that we want to support, much like Avery, who is destined to become a pilot.”

“I want to see more of it, I want it to be a regular thing for women to go and pursue these industries,” Anderson said. “I don’t want it to be taboo or seen as something that has to be difficult, other than the difficulty associated with being in that industry.”

She says she might not have been able to attend her first year were it not for the scholarship, and would have likely gone to a state school.

“But the state schools didn’t have anything that really appealed to me, and I probably would’ve pursued a completely different career,” Anderson said.

“It’s just such fulfilling work, because at the end of the day, when you help a woman you don’t just help her, you help her entire family, you empower her to help her entire family, so it’s incredibly uplifting,” Hagedorn said.

AAUW is accepting applications for the Rebar STEM scholarship until March 28. Around six girls are usually accepted every year.

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