“Girls Inc. made me see that I can make a change in my community”
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“Girls Inc. made me see that I can make a change in my community”

Sagarika Manian was born in Santa Barbara, California and is currently a junior at Dos Pueblos High School (DPHS). Sagarika is a  member of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA) and a member of the student leadership team for the DPEA. She will be the firstwoman in her family to attend a 4 year university in the United States and the second woman in her family to go to college. She is on the DPHS’s Varsity Girls Golf Team (3 time Channel League
Champion), the Second Vice Chair of Santa Barbara Youth Council, a member of a FRC Robotics Team called Octobots Robotics, the President of ProgramHERS (a Women in STEMnonprofit), the co-founder/co-president of the Self Care Club, and the Personnel Director/Board Member of YouthMuze (a music education nonprofit). Sagarika attended GI from 2018-2019, and was part of the Teen Mentorship Program, and Teen Advocacy Council. 

Do you have a specific memory from Girls Inc. that stands out to you?

I was in 9th grade and the then Teen Center Director, Brenda Mendoza, invited me to join the
Teen Mentorship Program. The Teen Mentorship Program is a two year program where I
learned skills to help me with a career and matched me with mentors that relate to what I want
my career to be. I also had monthly workshops to enhance my life skills and career readiness.
These workshops covered vital ground that wasn’t really addressed at my school, such as
drafting a resume, managing personal finances, and how to prepare for an interview. The
program matched me with Nina Shelton, a researcher at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute
who was aspiring to become a pediatric endocrinologist. I was paired with Nina because I
wanted to work with medical devices, and Nina is an accomplished researcher in that field. I met
with Nina twice a month during the school year, and during the summer I was able to work with
her, directly with patients, and with medical device sensors that have a profound impact on
patient outcomes. Nina helped me truly understand what it’s like being a woman in a STEM
field, and without Girls Inc. I wouldn’t have been able to fully experience that until I was in the
workforce. Since the program is for two years, the following summer I interned at the Teen
Center during their STEMinist camp, and worked with the teens during their STEM workshops
and field trips. I found this to be a great opportunity to not only spread my passion for STEM, but
to give back to Girls Inc. because of the many opportunities they provided that have enriched
my life.

What impact has Girls Inc. had on you?

Girls Inc. has shaped me into the person I am. Increased fulfillment came from my exposure to
Girls Inc.’s advocacy programs. At camp, I had deep conversations with other campers and staff
about the role of women in society, about feminism, and about women’s rights. I voiced my
opinion freely in these conversations; something I was not used to. Later, I would have these
conversations in my 9th grade Ethnic Studies class, but talking about this earlier not only made
me more prepared for that class, it made me more prepared for my life. Girls Inc. introduced me
to a new level of advocacy on multiple issues, giving me an opportunity to voice my
opinion–and my opinion, my voice, was heard, validated, and respected. So when Girls Inc.
invited me to participate in a city-wide protest in support of reproductive rights and bodily
autonomy, I took the opportunity. I was able to speak up for what I believed in, and I felt
empowered by the other women and girls who were there speaking their minds.
Girls Inc. inspired me in many ways, but the connection I developed with former Teen Center
Director Brenda Mendoza was something else. She was the first female adult outside my family
that I felt I had a true connection with. She pushed me to pursue my passion for medical devices
by getting me involved with the Teen Mentorship Program, where she matched me with my
mentor. She saw a fire in me that no one else really saw, and she continued to add to it by
giving me numerous opportunities, inviting me to intern with her, and welcoming my robotics
team to make a presentation to some of her students. She also gave me the best advice anyone
has ever given me: she encouraged me to surround myself with people who truly support and
love me. I was deeply affected when Brenda told me she was leaving Girls Inc. for a new job,
but I knew that her new job was perfect for her, and that she was going to do great. From the
friendships, the programs, and the advocacy, to the adults who inspired me and believe in me,
Girls Inc. has made a tremendous difference in my life, and I am so grateful to everyone who
made this possible.

What is one take away from your time at Girls Inc. that will help guide
you in the future?

Girls Inc. and their programs made me see that I can make change in my community. After
being exposed to the advocacy and the advocacy programs at Girls Inc, I became inspired to
see what change I can make in my community. Being a part of the Roe v. Wade Overturn
protest and the memories I made with the Girls Inc Teen Center/their advocacy programs is
something I truly cherish and I wanted to create that effect with others. I joined several programs
and led some programs as well which work towards making our community. For instance, I was
a part of a subcommittee with the Santa Barbara Youth Council that worked towards
researching, drafting and presenting an ordinance for the City of Santa Barbara regarding safe
firearm storage. The ordinance is now in effect as of April 4, 2024. By serving as President of
ProgramHERS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to inspiring the next generation of STEM
(especially women in STEM), we initiate events to work directly with youth. We recently held
STEM workshops for elementary students. Without the exposure and the memories I created
with Girls Inc.’s advocacy programs, I would have never known the opportunities I could create
now and down the road as well.