Julia Kerpel, a sophomore at Highland Park High School, embodies her personal motto of making time for what matters most.
In addition to being on the math team, a ballerina, and having a black belt in karate, Kerpel also sets aside time to pursue her main passion: encouraging young women to explore the STEM field.
In October, Kerpel became an ambassador for Greenlight for Girls, an international nonprofit organization based out of Belgium that instills confidence in young women and aspires to share a love of science. Having recently been appointed as the ambassador coordinator, Kerpel serves as the line of communication between ambassadors and the rest of the Greenlight for Girls team.
“It is really incredible to connect with girls my age who have the same interests as I do with STEM and to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers,” Kerpel says.
Greenlight for Girls ambassadors, ages 15 to 25, hail from all over the globe, and are given the platform to pursue a project of their choosing that connects to STEM. “One ambassador creates podcasts with STEM role models, while another makes inspirational posters to hang in her school,” Kerpel notes.
“As ambassador coordinator, I want to be helpful and act as a resource for all the ambassadors,” Kerpel explains. “I want them to be comfortable coming to me with their ideas and to help them pursue those ideas in their own communities.”
As the youngest licensed Zumba instructor in the Chicagoland area, Kerpel chose her Greenlight for Girls project to include her two passions, incorporating a STEM-inspired craft for children at the end of a Zumba class that she teaches from her home. In March 2020, Kerpel began teaching these weekly Zumba classes to keep children active and parents during quarantine.
Drawing from ideas on Pinterest, Kerpel formulates crafts for children utilizing accessible household items like paper rolls.
Her classes, offered via Zoom and a Twitch live stream, have been recognized for both their health and academic benefits. A lo-cal first-grade teacher has integrated portions of Kerpel’s Zumba class into her students’ schedules, serving as part of a movement break from the static nature of online school.
Yet Kerpel’s desire to share her passion for STEM includes more than utilizing crafts as a vehicle. She has posted interviews with women in the STEM field on her personal website.
“I’m so happy that I found Greenlight for Girls and that I can help encourage young women all over the world to pursue STEM careers,” Kerpel says. “Whatever I do, I just want to make the world a little bit better.
To learn more about Kerpel’s efforts within the STEM field, visit juliazumba.org/.