The Zonta Club of Honolulu said “thank you for being a friend” to Sacred Hearts Academy principal Betty White with the Zonta Yellow Rose Award last month in honor of her contributions in promoting math and science education among young girls.
“As always I feel very honored, but it’s really not for me. It’s for the school and the staff that I have,” White says of the honor, which was given in tandem with the Global United Nations 2010 theme for International Women’s Day, “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.”
“If we go back over the past six, eight months, the status of women, the reputation of women, the role of women seem to be very good,” White adds. “But it’s still a man-dominated world. So what I tell our girls is that it is in these fields (math and science) that they will impact on our country.”
In addition to the customary requirements all high schools set in these subjects, at Sacred Hearts, students are immersed in the “boy’s studies” from the get-go. Among the many options offered is the immensely popular Math Power Workshop that introduces girls in pre-K through grade 4 to the possibilities that lay in the math fields. White played an instrumental role in this annual program’s development, as well as the development of the academy into one of the state’s top STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schools. And with classes in astronomy, environmental sciences, ecology, robotics and other branches of math and science, there’s no question a girl can go far.
“I think there’s such a culture of those fields that the girls know no other way,” White boasts of the young women who emerge from the school. A sampling of past graduates includes engineering, biology, mathematics and biochemistry majors at colleges such as Johns Hopkins, Stanford, University of Notre Dame, U.S. Naval Academy and UH Manoa.
“One of the latest things I saw in the paper was that the next Barbie doll coming out in October is going to be a computer engineer, and the paper showed a picture of her with a pink T-shirt that has a binary number and matching pink laptop and cell phone headset,” she adds with a chuckle over the changing times. “It’s little things like this where you can see that the culture is changing for our girls.
“Women have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
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