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Meet Audrey Shawley of Boundless Brilliance in Northeast Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Audrey Shawley.

Common stereotypes associate brilliance with men. Children internalize these stereotypes earlier than we may initially believe. While they are clearly prevalent in the minds of adults, evident in that only 29% of STEM jobs are held by women, a study published in Science Magazine in January 2017 found that girls as young six years old were less likely to believe that members of their own gender were “really, really smart”. These trends are further supported by a simple test first conducted in 1983 by David Wade Chambers: when asked to draw a scientist, 90% of elementary school students drew men. Today, many elementary school students continue to draw men. These gendered notions of brilliance immediately impact the interests of young girls and their enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

When Occidental College alumni Audrey Shawley, Nina Doeff, and Hannah Hayes read these studies in early 2017, they decided to create a solution through Boundless Brilliance. The purpose of Boundless Brilliance is to instill into young girls a simple message: you are brilliant and you can be a scientist if you want to be. Far too frequently, young people are quick to dismiss their own potential in STEM because they are told that they “just aren’t a math person.” The gender discrepancy in STEM fields is apparent across age, race, and class boundaries. This reality is more severe for minority women, who comprise fewer than 1 in 10 scientists and engineers.

We organize college student volunteers to go into local elementary school classrooms and deliver presentations that combine empowerment activities with hands-on STEM experiments. Our 45-minute presentations are delivered to K–6, all-gender classrooms. The Boundless Brilliance presentation model is based on the idea that science is for everyone. Our team is dedicated to encouraging girls to pursue STEM fields and believe that they are truly brilliant. We work in collaboration with teachers and community leaders to ensure that the presentation material aligns with Next-Gen Science Standards.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have certainly be challenges! Our team is primarily comprised of young people with limited experience in running a nonprofit. We have had to immerse ourselves in the worlds of fundraising, accounting, database management, and more. We are learning a lot every day. There are a lot of moving parts in the organization (the board/exec team, our staff, and all of our college student volunteers). The team is over 100 people!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Boundless Brilliance – what should we know?
We specialize in organizing college student volunteers to deliver free programming to local elementary schools. The program is focused on STEM empowerment and advocacy, confidence building, and professional development for college students.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Our ten values are bold Leadership, kindness in action, excellence, every voice matters, intersectional empowerment, ownership, inexperience as an asset, intentional community building, accomplishing more with less, and dismantling stereotypes.

I believe bold leadership is the most important to our success.


  • Our program is 100% free and accessible

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Marc Campos

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