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Texas Nonprofit for Girls in STEM Is Growing

Design Connect Create Has Expanded Programming, New Leadership and New Brand

Girl with Microscope and STEM line
Girl with Microscope and STEM line

DALLAS – Design Connect Create, a Dallas-based nonprofit with a mission to help girls realize the potential in STEM and themselves, is expanding. The organization is poised to make a greater impact on girls in school districts across Texas through the expansion of its programming, new leadership and a new brand.

In the last year, the organization has added new STEM summer camp offerings, as well as a mentoring program pairing girls with women in STEM careers. Moving the organization forward is a new leadership team, including Executive Director Dr. Denise Strickland and Director of Operations Danielle Moore, who succeed founder and former executive director Wanda Gass, whose vision and commitment has paved a path for girls in Texas to envision a future in STEM. Gass, an electrical engineer who helped develop Texas Instruments’ first commercially successful digital signal processor, continues to fundraise and advocate for Design Connect Create.

As part of this expansion, the organization is also unveiling a new logo that features the four disciplines within STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – as well as an array of vibrant colors that reflect diversity and bright potential among today’s girls. In addition, the organization has a new tagline: “Her path to a limitless future.” See the new brand and information about the organization at www.designconnectcreate.org.

“At Design Connect Create, we believe in the potential of all girls to empower and engineer their futures in STEM and beyond. By providing opportunities for girls to explore and investigate possibilities in STEM, especially for those who may not have the chance to do so otherwise, we are able to help them persevere and solve problems; connect ideas to real-world applications, people and possibilities; and become the STEM leaders of tomorrow,” said Dr. Strickland.

Dr. Denise Strickland
Dr. Denise Strickland

Women are underrepresented in many critical STEM careers. Research shows that girls don’t receive the encouragement and support needed to pursue STEM studies and careers. This is especially true for girls from Black and Latino families who are less likely to see women who look like themselves working in STEM careers. 

Design Connect Create was established in 2015 to create equitable opportunities for girls to explore STEM today so that they can be become leaders in STEM tomorrow. The organization began by offering physics camps to middle and high school girls. The camps provide hands-on experience and career exposure that build academic, career and life skills.

Throughout the pandemic, Design Connect Create continued to grow. Last year, it launched coding camps for middle and high school girls. This summer, Design Connect Create is expanding again to offer biotech camps that will allow girls to investigate genetics using biotech lab techniques with real-world applications.

Design Connect Create partners with school districts throughout North Texas, including Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Crandall ISD, Duncanville ISD, Ferris ISD, Garland ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Lancaster ISD, Mesquite ISD and Richardson ISD, to offer camps at no cost to participants. Design Connect Create also offers camps in Austin through Austin ISD and in Houston through Houston ISD and Rice University. Since its founding, Design Connect Create has engaged more than 1,354 girls of all backgrounds with hands-on STEM experiences.

Additionally, Design Connect Create has created mentorship opportunities for girls in Texas. The LeadHER mentoring program, launched last school year, pairs girls with women who are professionals in STEM fields. The mentors include IF/THEN Ambassadors, a group of women from a variety of STEM careers that serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

Danielle Moore
Danielle Moore

The expansion of these programs is led by Design Connect Create’s new leadership team, including Dr. Denise Strickland as executive director and Danielle Moore as director of operations. This marks the culmination of a transition in leadership, as Design Connect Create’s founder, Wanda Gass, steps down as head executive but continues working with the organization as development manager. Design Connect Create is indebted to Gass for her visionary leadership and her selfless dedication to bringing equitable opportunities for girls in Texas to build their confidence and explore STEM careers.

As Executive Director, Dr. Strickland brings 30 years of experience in the field of education as a teacher, trainer, coach and consultant to Design Connect Create. Additionally, she served as Director of Community Programs Outreach for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas for nearly 10 years prior to joining Design Connect Create. Throughout her career, she has focused on education of underserved and disenfranchised youth and has been an advocate for women and girls. She holds an M.S.E. in elementary administration from Arkansas State University and an Ed.D. in education leadership and public school administration from Oral Roberts University.

As the Director of Operations, Danielle Moore brings more than 20 years of experience in teaching and instructional design to Design Connect Create. Moore was a science teacher in Dallas ISD for 16 years, physics curriculum specialist in Fort Worth ISD and instructional design leader in DeSoto ISD prior to joining Design Connect Create. Danielle holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Dillard University and master’s degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in educational psychology and conducting research in equity and efficacy of marginalized populations at the University of North Texas.

About Design Connect Create: Founded in 2015, Design Connect Create is a nonprofit STEM program for girls in Texas. The organization exists because women are underrepresented in critical STEM careers. Through summer STEM camps and the LeadHER mentoring program, Design Connect Create equips girls with STEM understanding and critical life skills, so they can thrive in any classroom or career. For information, visit www.designconnectcreate.org.

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