by Erica Copeland

My name is Erica Copeland, and I am a first-year student at Drake University. I am majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications, with a minor in Rhetoric, Media, and Social Change. Through my Engaged Citizen Corps placement this year, I interned with Jewels Academy. Jewels is a STEM program for underrepresented young women in grades k-12. I help run the social media accounts, write newsletters, and create different graphics for our program.

Jewels Academy was founded to bridge the inequality women face when entering a STEM field. We highlight underrepresented women at Jewels precisely due to the challenges they face. This includes women of color, women with disabilities, and women below the poverty line. The root cause of these hardships is that higher education is usually financially unattainable and that male-dominated fields tend not to allow women to participate. This program is dedicated to uplifting young women. They receive opportunities they do not always receive in a public school setting. We have recently been working with the University of Iowa and the Jacobsen Institute for BIZ and STEM innovator courses, which earn students three college credits, respectively, and allow students to participate in an academically vigorous and competitive setting.

Jewels Academy has become a hybrid program, with most of our courses and tutoring sessions being taught from behind the screen. However, we do host field trip events! Our move to the internet has been beneficial; not only do we have more students showing up consistently from their homes, but we have also been able to expand our courses beyond state lines! One major trip was to the Hyvee Center of Technology, where students met with engineers and participate in a Q/A!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from interning at Jewels is that there is always room to grow and to be successful and that we must collaborate. Even when I think a new post is perfect, opening it up for discussion with other employees, I find that there are always minor tweaks that I can make. Collaboration also allows for more than one perspective, and when working toward a common goal, it is best to embrace your team’s suggestions because they also want this plan to work. Working with Jewels has also allowed me to understand what I want out of my future. I love writing newsletters and communicating with our following, so I know that the path I am on with journalism is the right choice.

The most significant impact that Jewels has had on me is to look beyond what I know and to be able to back up my opinions with facts. Before Jewels, I would argue with just my opinion and books that I have read. Now I am interested in the numbers as well. Creating posts and finding statistics has shown me that if I am passionate about a topic, finding numbers to solidify my ideas should be a part of my decision-making process. This has helped me in school and my day-to-day life as an active community member. If we are passionate about a subject, we should first look at it from all sorts of angles.

If you are interested in Jewels Academy, please look at our website: or our social media accounts: Ig and FB, @jewelsacademy LinkedIn, jewelsacademy1. Giving us a like and a follow will help spread our mission of equality in STEM.