Daily Point of Light # 7654 Oct 4, 2023

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Jasmine Garry. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Jasmine Garry, 17, has been passionate about technology since she was young. When she learned that girls often lose interest and are underrepresented in STEM fields, she knew she wanted to do something to inspire young students. Also, she wanted to make sure STEM pathways were accessible to any student who was interested.

To meet the needs of her community, she founded CREATE, a free STEM tutoring service that connects high school students with elementary students. CREATE uses social media platforms, such as Facebook, to reach out to parents whose kids might be interested in receiving STEM tutoring. Now, Jasmine and the other volunteers with CREATE have logged more than 10,000 hours of free STEM education and service work. Additionally, Jasmine recently won a Congressional App Challenge in her home state of Minnesota.

She is currently a senior at Eden Prairie High School and wants to pursue a major in computer science.

“Being a part of CREATE has really solidified the fact that [technology] is definitely a passion of mine, and just being a part of the community has motivated myself to just continue building apps,” said Jasmine.

What inspires you to volunteer?

Back when I started CREATE, I was just really passionate about helping my community. I have always been involved in my community through various activities. Then during the onset of COVID, I felt like I lost something, I couldn’t spend as much time around other people as I liked to. So, after COVID, I was really motivated to volunteer to bring communities together, specifically in relation to tutoring and STEM education. It’s important for me to be able to connect with the youth and continue inspiring them. I give them the resources that I know I didn’t have when I was in elementary school. Tutoring or STEM courses are very expensive, and my goal is to make sure that we can reach all students, and they can have access to that without any sort of financial burden or fear of it not working out – just give them a place to explore.

Jasmine Garry founded CREATE, a free STEM tutoring service for elementary students. /Courtesy Jasmine Garry

Describe your volunteer role with CREATE.

I founded CREATE four years ago, in the beginning of January of 2021, it was a New Year’s resolution. I really wanted to do something impactful throughout my high school journey and beyond. As the founder, I work with all of our tutors, who are based all over the United States, and some that are international. I set up meetings with the tutors and help with the scheduling with the students. I also handle meetings with our board members, and make sure that we’re able to set up events.

I love event planning and being involved in community events, so anytime that kind of thing pops up, I’m really involved in brainstorming, finding sponsors, getting people together and advertising. Additionally, I manage CREATE’s Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. I’ve learned a lot from that role, like how to market this service to students and to parents, how to get involved with other organizations and how to gain a following and presence on social media.

Why are you passionate about STEM?

I’ve been very passionate about STEM ever since I was young, but the passion really grew when I was in middle school. Then, when COVID happened and school was being taught online, I noticed that math and science were tricky to conduct online. Pair that with my love of technology and aspirations to pursue a career in technology, and it just kind of clicked that we needed something in our community where students could get access to a focused STEM education. Also, I have a background in creating apps – I’ve even been recognized by the Congressional App Challenge for an app I built. I really wanted to pass along all my knowledge and passion to other students.

Additionally, there are studies that have shown that before third grade, girls and boys have the same interest in STEM. After third grade, the interest from girls usually declines. I feel like the beauty of CREATE is that we reach students before that happens by specifically targeting elementary students.

Tell us more about the Congressional App Challenge you won.

The Congressional App Challenge is hosted by the representatives in Congress, and each representative judges the student’s submissions in their district. I created an app called RexCycle, and the app is an AI app that detects whether an item is recyclable or not. You can just scan a product, for example a water bottle or a pizza box, and then the app lets you know if the product is recyclable, not recyclable or partially recyclable. Or it informs you of the steps you need to take to make the product recyclable, like removing a label or cleaning the product. Once you recycle a product, you receive points, and you can be on a leaderboard to compete against your friends to see who’s recycling the most. It is a passion project of mine. I really wanted to learn more about AI, and I noticed that there are a lot of nuances in recycling. Because of the nuances, a lot of stuff that we try to recycle ends up not even getting recycled, which is kind of upsetting. I realized that people want to recycle, but there is no easy way to learn all of the rules unless you have an app that’s been trained to tell you that.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

I think seeing STEM become a career path possibility for students, especially girls. So, we conduct a lot of workshops for girls to get into STEM. The most rewarding thing is seeing that “light bulb moment.” Like when a student gets super excited whenever they’ve coded a project, and even if it’s a simple project, they get so excited to show their parents and continue working on it at home. Then when we get feedback from the parents and hear that the student is still working on their projects and thinking of new ideas, it’s amazing. Even if the student doesn’t choose to do STEM in the future, at least they saw it as an option and an opportunity to learn something new.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I was intimidated by the challenge of creating an organization like this, and I think many are, but I learned that I’m capable of bringing people together for a common goal, and that I’m able to learn various aspects about creating a service. I learned how to market a service, how to reach specific communities and how to create successful events. I’ve learned so many real-life applications that I know I can carry on into my work, and I’ve already been able to use what I’ve learned. Because of my involvement in CREATE, I’ve been offered multiple internships where I’ve been able to use these skills.

In general, I’ve learned that anyone can make an impact. There are so many problems in our community and obviously one person can’t solve all of them, but when you bring people together and they are able to work on what they are passionate about. Then they can use their knowledge to create an app that can help solve a problem and teach others about how to solve the problem. I think it’s so amazing that you can teach kids how to use technology to solve problems, and they can then come up with creative ideas of their own because everyone’s life experiences are different.

Tell us about future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about.

I’m going to host a hackathon. I’ve been a part of many hackathons and it’s just a blast. It’s a great event to learn and get all those creative juices flowing. I’m working on the curriculum right now, basically students are going to learn about how to create an app through block-based coding, and then at the end of that program they’re going to have the opportunity to pitch their own product to a panel of judges. Winners will be picked and there will be a big celebration. I’m super excited for it because it combines two things that I feel like I’ve learned from this experience: tech and entrepreneurship, which are both key skills for any student, no matter what they choose to pursue in the future.

Why is it important for others to get involved in causes they care about?

Everyone has their own story and their own life experiences. So, there’s no way for me to be able to address a problem as well as someone else who may be living that problem or has experienced it themselves firsthand. When you get involved in a bigger network that can support you, you’re able to work together to solve that problem.

Then, when I’m working with the other volunteers who work with CREATE, I learn something new every day. They all have these amazing stories, goals and aspirations. So, just being inspired by these other volunteers motivates me and the other tutors to continue exploring and learning. Fostering this community of learning is so important because at the end of the day, whenever we have this prominence of education, it will always lead to more innovation and that is for the betterment of our society.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

What I want people to learn is that it doesn’t matter what you’re interested in or how old you are. What you say does have value, and you can change an entire community. I’ve seen my community change entirely with this new ability to code apps. So many people are much more involved. Also, there will always be people supporting you along the way that will make sure that this change happens, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to create change.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Jasmine? Find local volunteer opportunities.

Bethany Schattner