Miami Palmetto High School rising senior Isabel Duran won the Princeton Book Award at the recent Palmetto junior class awards ceremony in recognition of her achievements in high school.
Duran has a passion for science and wants other girls also to develop a passion for science.
After being the only girl in the National Chemistry Olympiad, she decided to do something.
Through her initiative called STEM GEM, she aims to provide young girls with opportunities to explore and embrace the wonders of science.
“By organizing a team of like-minded girls, I visit local elementary schools, delivering engaging science lessons and fostering a sense of belonging for girls in the STEM field,” she says.
Duran’s efforts have already made a significant impact on the community.
“Over 200 students participated in a tie-dying experiment at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Science and Discovery.”
She says tie-dying scrunchies is not just for girls but helps cultivate a love for science among girls.
This past school year the team went to Coral Reef Elementary once a week. Duran looks for experiments that will excite the kids.
“For example, we did an experiment with Skittles to show them the properties of liquids,” she says. “We encourage curiosity by providing a space for them to ask questions.”
She wants to expand STEM GEM to more students.
“Next year we are making science kits for teachers to perform experiments with their students during class,” she says.
The science kits will also encourage female participation in STEM.
“We’re choosing experiments all students can enjoy,” she says.
By choosing features such as purple paper, videos of the (all-female) team, and a female scientist of the day, Duran ensures the classroom remains a welcoming environment for girls.
All those experiment kits cost money. STEM GEM received a $600 grant from Tutoring for Tomorrow, but the bulk of the money comes from cookie sales.
Duran revels in the chemistry of baking and has developed a cookie recipe that is a bona fide success. The community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive, and Duran’s delectable cookie recipes have helped her raise more than a thousand dollars.
“That recipe is my pride and joy,” she says.
Her best seller is a double chocolate cake cookie (her favorite) that tastes like chocolate cake in a cookie. Her other classics include chocolate chip and red velvet.
She has expanded her kitchen to bake more than 90 at a time, planning to continue selling them at $1 each.
Duran is equally STEM-involved in school. At Palmetto, Duran has participated in competitions such as Envirothon, The Chemistry Olympiad, and The Aspen Challenge, getting to the national level or winning in each.
She also went to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in 2019 and 2021.
Duran is co-president of the Science National Honor Society and Women in Technology. She is also vice president of Mu Alpha Theta and Student Organ Donation Advocates.
Carrying her passion onto social causes, she’s a Student Visionary for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She began fundraising for cancer research in the group after her grandmother and cousin were diagnosed with lymphoma last year.
After leaving Palmetto, Duran knows she wants to do something science-related, possibly mechanical engineering. Her list of potential colleges includes several top universities.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld
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