How Two High School Students Are Advocating for Women of Color in STEM

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Welcome Anonymous

Contributed by Amanda Sullivan

Srinija Darapureddy and Jahnavi Avula are two young women attending Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, currently in their senior and junior years, respectively. Much like other high schoolers at Carmel High, they enjoy a range of hobbies such as traveling, reading, and dancing. They are also the authors of a newly released self-published picture book Women of Color in STEM, available for purchase on Amazon. Srinija and Jahnavi have written and published the book to raise awareness – and funds – to support girls and women of color hoping to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (STEM). They are donating all profits raised by selling their book to support the initiatives of the National Girls Collaborative Project.

Jahnavi and Srinija - two teen girls. One with long dark hair wearing a striped sweater, the other with curly dark hair in a pony tail wearing a tan sweater

I had the exciting opportunity to interview Srinija and Jahnavi about their book and their passion for supporting women of color in STEM. When asked what motivated them to write their book and start a fundraiser, Jahnavi explains, “Srinija and I both want to pursue STEM fields. And while we were researching, we came across many articles that highlight the large gender disparities that still exist in these fields. We wanted to shed light on that fact and help encourage young girls to follow the STEM path and to empower young girls to follow their dreams.”

Together, Srinija and Jahnavi embarked on researching, writing, and publishing a book that would do just that. They have compiled a book, which they explain is ideal for children 7 years and older, that introduces readers to women of color, from both the past and the present, who became successful in STEM. Srinija states, “Even though it is the 21st century, there are still significantly less women working in STEM compared to men. As a woman myself, I wanted to have an impact on the number of women that choose to go into STEM, and the best way to do that is to inspire girls from a young age.”

Image of book cover. Text reads Women of Color in STEM  with purple and blue dots and STEM iconography

Diversity, representation, and having access to relatable STEM role models matter to young women like Srinija and Jahnavi. Srinija explains “I hope readers can get a role model and someone they can look up to through reading the book. Having a role model can be very insightful for young girls.” Jahnavi elaborates saying, “Diversity and representation is crucial in every single field, and it's no doubt extremely important in STEM fields as well. Fellow Indian women inspire me and it matters to me that every young girl can find a role model who inspires them.” She mentions growing up learning about strong Indian women such as Janaki Ammal and Kalpana Chawla. “Their stories inspired me and gave me the strength to believe in myself. I hope that by writing this book, young girls will learn about these impactful STEM women and be inspired by them in the same way I was.”

Jahnavi and Srinija also knew, from the beginning of their work on this project, that they did not want to keep any profits from the book for themselves. Instead, they wanted to find an organization doing work to support girls and women in STEM. Srinija tells me “I knew since the beginning that I wanted to donate all profits to charity so that I can help other people. We chose NGCP because the mission they stood for was very inspiring, and the work they have done in the past to help many young girls was very aligned with the mission I wanted to accomplish.”

Inspired by their passion and hard work, I asked Srinija and Jahnavi if they had any words of wisdom or advice for younger girls interested in STEM. Srinija suggests that young girls keep an open mind and be willing to try and learn new things. Jahnavi wants young girls to know that no matter what anyone says or no matter the hardships they face, they should continue to believe in themselves. “They need to know that they can achieve anything and everything they put their mind to.”

What is next for these two talented young women? Srinija’s plan after high school is to go to Purdue University to study Electrical Engineering and later go to UCLA for graduate school. Jahnavi dreams of going into medicine. “I am interested in neurology as well as a couple of other medical fields, and I hope to specialize in one of them. In the future, I want to continue to do my part to positively impact the livelihood of women and children.”

All of us at NGCP congratulate Srinija and Jahnavi on their advocacy for girls and women of color in STEM! We know we will continue to see great things from them in years to come.

Contribute to Srinija and Jahnavi’s Fundraiser:

Support Srinija and Jahnavi in their mission to raise funds for supporting women and girls in STEM! Your donation helps NGCP support programs working to increase girls’ interest in STEM by providing collaboration support, professional development, curriculum, and helpful evaluation and assessment techniques.

Jahnavi - Teen girl with long, dark hair wearing a floral print dress, sitting on a wooden bench

Jahnavi Avula

Hello! I am Jahnavi Avula, a junior at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana. I really enjoy reading and writing. Additionally, I practice Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance, as well as Bollywood dance, both of which I thoroughly enjoy! In the future, I want to pursue a career in the medical field. I find neurology fascinating, but many other fields in medicine interest me. My goal is to contribute positively to the lives of women and children globally. Writing this book about women of color in STEM and their experiences is one of my first steps towards that goal, and I hope to take many more in the future!

Srinija - teen girl with curly dark hair wearing black top

Srinija Darapureddy

Hello! My name is Srinija Darapureddy and I am a current Senior attending Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana. For college, I want to attend Purdue University for Electrical Engineering and receive my bachelors. Later, I want to go to UCLA for graduate studies. My goal is to work at Sony as an electrical engineer and design headphones. In my free time, I enjoy playing the guitar and traveling  

Amanda Sullivan

Amanda Sullivan

Senior Program Developer (she/her)

Amanda brings over a decade of experience in education, research, and advocacy for girls in STEM to her role as Senior Program Developer at NGCP. She is passionate about breaking gender stereotypes and providing all children with equal access and opportunities to succeed within (and beyond) STEM from an early age.

Amanda is the author of the book Breaking the STEM Stereotype: Reaching Girls in Early Childhood and co-author of the ScratchJr Coding Cards: Creative Coding Activities for Children 5+.  Amanda has a Master’s and Ph.D. in Child Development from Tufts University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology & Drama from Bennington College. She is happily married to her college sweetheart and a proud mom to two energetic children and one lazy cat.

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