Perseverance Pays Off For Westchester 14-Year-Old, Founder Of ThinkSTEAM

MOHEGAN LAKE, N.Y. -- In less than a year, 14-year-old Lakeland High School student Jothi Ramaswamy has gotten close to 120K annually in advertising grants from Google for an organization she started to raise STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] awareness in girls through the arts.

Jothi Ramaswamy, the 14-year-old founder of ThinkSTEAM, middle, with Tierney Saccavino of Acorda Therapeutics, and Patricia Viggiano of Lakeland High School.
Jothi Ramaswamy, the 14-year-old founder of ThinkSTEAM, middle, with Tierney Saccavino of Acorda Therapeutics, and Patricia Viggiano of Lakeland High School. Photo Credit: Submitted
Jothi Ramaswamy with ThinkSTEAM award winners.
Jothi Ramaswamy with ThinkSTEAM award winners. Photo Credit: Submitted
Jothi Ramaswamy, the 14-year-old founder of ThinkSTEAM.
Jothi Ramaswamy, the 14-year-old founder of ThinkSTEAM. Photo Credit: Submitted

ThinkSTEAM, her 501(c) 3 group profiled HERE in an earlier Daily Voice story, has also gotten financial backing from seven other organizations including Ardsley-based Acorda Therapeutics, Purchase-based PepsiCo, and IBM in Armonk.

Tuesday, Aug. 9 marks the organization's official one year anniversary and according to Ramaswamy, a Mohegan Lake resident, it's been quite a year. The group held seven successful workshops and reached out to more than 100 girls in four different states. 

There was also a ThinkBIG Challenge, in which girls had to create a one to four minute video showcasing the importance of STEM/STEAM. The award ceremony was held at the Business Council of Westchester Office in Rye Brook on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Winners included individual runner-up Tyler Hormazabal from Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School and Group runner-up KEM Girls –– made up of Eva Fava-Rodrigues, Margaret Almodovar, and Khushbu Dulani –– from Eastchester Middle School.

Group winner STEAMletes included Smriti Somasundaram, Madison Parker, Addison Ainsworth, and Talia Kalappa and individual winner Alliyah Steele from Putnam Valley Middle School. Steele said she learned a lot while creating her video and aspires to become an astrophysicist when she grows up. 

“For the first time, I learned of far more female scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and artists; and, with extensive research, became familiar with how these different women contributed to the fields of S.T.E.A.M,” she said.

As for what's next, ThinkSTEAM is partnering with Columbia’s Society of Women Engineers for its next big workshop for middle school girls at Columbia University on Sunday, Oct. 15. 

In addition, by teaming up with PepsiCo, who is a platinum sponsor of Million Women Mentors, ThinkSTEAM will be kicking off a mentorship program, in which middle school and high school girls in grades eight to twelve will be paired up with a mentor, who will guide them in STEM throughout their middle and high school years.

Ramaswamy credits persistence to getting her organization where it is today. "I realized that even though companies like IBM and PepsiCo are very large and extremely busy, if I keep sending emails requesting support for ThinkSTEAM, they will eventually respond," she said. "Through my perseverance, I was able to secure several grants and set up workshops with IBM and Columbia University and I am currently trying very hard to do a workshop at MasterCard and Facebook for middle school girls."

The tenth grade Shrub Oak student is also driven by the girls themselves. "It's amazing to witness them realizing how much potential they have to become STEM leaders," she said. "They are super smart and seeing their newfound passion towards STEM made me realize that these girls can revolutionize science and engineering. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the future."

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