At C.H. Robinson, giving back to our community is at the core of who we are. Whether it’s weekly meal deliveries through a local non-profit, or the week-long, global event of Robinson Cares week (a week dedicated to fundraising for employee-voted non-profits) the drive to be a positive force in our community is strong. As a member of our Women in Technology (WIT) group here at C.H. Robinson, I am happy to share that community outreach is also an important piece of our mission. This is a big reason why WIT exists in the first place. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project1, about 1 in 5 Computer Science students are female and the biggest drop in interest happens between the ages of 13 to 17. Of those female CS degree majors only 1 out of 4 of them is a person of color. There is an opportunity for us to change that statistic and show our younger counterparts that all women belong in STEM-related fields. Enter PACER Center and their EXploring Interests in Technology and Engineering (EX.I.T.E.) Camp.
Who Is PACER Center, and What Is EX.I.T.E. Camp?
PACER Center, located in Bloomington, MN, is a non-profit focused on enhancing the quality of life and expanding opportunities for children and young adults with disabilities. Their programs include:
- Providing information, support and workshops for families and professionals
- Creating disability awareness
- Providing software and adaptive devices through the Simon Technology Center
- Bullying prevention via the National Bully Prevention Center
One of our favorite events that PACER runs is EX.I.T.E. camp, a 5-day camp in August for middle school girls (6th to 9th grade) with disabilities. For the past 4 years, C.H. Robinson has been a community partner, meaning we provide content and volunteers for a whole day of the camp. Through a variety of activities, our volunteers teach the girls about innovation, packaging, and transportation at C.H. Robinson! Activities included:
- Dyeing carnations and making slime (innovation at its finest!)
- Tasting a variety of new produce, like cotton candy grapes, and yellow carrots
- Designing their own packaging and pitching their new products to the group
- Moving a shipment of rubber ducks through a transportation simulation
Through the activities, our goal was to get the girls excited about the transportation industry (which we know seems less than exciting on the surface!) and demonstrate how we use technology to solve some of the most complex logistics problems in the industry.
When our day for the 2019 camp arrived, we were shocked to find out that C.H. Robinson employee, Josh Mrosla has a daughter, Grace who was one of the participants at the EX.I.T.E. Camp. Josh said, “This was the first year my daughter attended the 5-day PACER EX.I.T.E. Camp. She had the opportunity to learn interesting things, gain a sense of accomplishment, and most importantly, make new friends. Grace especially enjoyed the day.” For Josh, seeing the support from his employer was exciting and he is looking forward to joining the group of volunteers next year. By the way - that is Grace and Alicia pictured to the left!
As you can see, PACER has had a profound impact on our employees who have used their services for their children. The EX.I.T.E. camp provides opportunities for a group of girls to make friends, have fun, and experience STEM in an accessible and exciting way. This day truly is about supporting these amazing girls and showing them that STEM is a place for and by women, and nothing – neither gender nor disability — should ever hold them back.