If you haven't heard already, Matt Damon has stopped going to the bathroom. And apparently Jessica Biel has never gone.
Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.
While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.
That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.
"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."
The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.
Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.
Through the Capital One Coders program, girls can gain early access to computer science education which can directly inspire their confidence levels and interest in computer science.
In fact, a report from Code.org says that Black and Hispanic students who take computer science classes before college are seven times more likely to major in computer science.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Meeks Gombe helped to develop a virtual curriculum that included breakout rooms with custom games and quizzes. In her role as a lead teacher for Girls For A Change, Meeks Gombe's visibility as a Black technologist and leader is helping to create a lasting impact on her students.
"Just having girls see the variety of career opportunities led by people who look like them opens up that possibility. There's a connection made when girls see me in a role that they don't usually associate themselves with. I can't reach every girl, but I want them to know that they can do this," Meeks Gombe said.
Capital One Vice President of HR Technology, Maureen Jules-Perez echoed Meeks Gombe's perspective. For Jules-Perez, who served on the organization's board for a few years before becoming the new Board Chair of Girl's For a Change this year, the mission of the nonprofit parallels her motto of "Tech For Good" which uses tech to improve social, environmental, and economic outcomes. The organization's long-term programs give girls the option to see themselves as artists, entrepreneurs and technologists, among other career opportunities.
"I came from a similar background so I feel like I'm one of those girls," said Jules-Perez. "I know what it's like to have someone champion you, but also the opposite feeling of knowing someone who doesn't think you're worthy. I'm haunted by the thought that there's a Black girl or a person of color who doesn't feel seen or doesn't think the world wants them. Girls For A Change prepares Black girls for the world."
Beyond helping girls see their potential as future technologists, Girls For A Change's CEO Angela Patton is working hard on her action-oriented vision to help realize the unmet needs of all girls in Central Virginia.
Her focus is particularly on what she calls "at-promise" youth who have natural gifts and innate potential where their circumstances don't define their identities. For more than a decade, Patton has supported at-promise girls with incarcerated fathers through Dance With Dad, a rehabilitation program founded by a group of young girls who wanted to invite their jailed fathers into their lives on their own terms and define their futures. The girls, Patton explained, wrote to a police sheriff to allow them to hold a dance with their fathers in jail. More than a decade since the program began, not one of the fathers had been reincarcerated again.
"We're teaching girls to elevate their voices," said Patton. "We want them to experience the moment where they feel ownership and empowerment so that they can change their own lives."
Girls For A Change has partnered with Capital One since 2017 to connect girls with career and life opportunities for which they otherwise may not have access or insight.
Since the partnership began, Capital One has supported 15 different programs with Girls for A Change. Seven of these programs were Capital One Coders camps and nearly 80 Capital One Tech associates have supported Girls For A Change girls over the last few years through those programs.
"For some of the girls aging out of the Girls For A Change program, they had a chance to do mock interviews with Capital One associates and get feedback for entry-level positions," said Patton. "I love that I have resources to point my girls to so that they can have a chance at better outcomes."
All together, now: who runs the world?
Vaccines are without a doubt one of the most impactful scientific advancements in human history. Through vaccines, we eliminated smallpox, have nearly eliminated polio worldwide, and have saved countless lives through protection from a host of other infectious diseases. Yet even with that history, millions of Americans are refusing the coronavirus vaccines and decrying efforts to mandate proof of vaccination to partake in certain activities.
A Twitter post is serving as a timely reminder that vaccination isn't new and neither are proof-of-immunization requirements. The post shows a polio record card from 1956 that the poster found at the thrift store where they work. And the real kicker here is that COVID is actually far deadlier than polio ever was.
I work at a thrift store and found this vaccine card from 1956. Felt weirdly timely https://t.co/pjo8nhwwUL— Mildly Interesting (@Mildly Interesting)1631747697.0
COVID-19 has killed nearly 670,000 Americans in the past year and a half. We are just days away from surpassing the death toll from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Those numbers are staggering in comparison with the polio epidemic, which at its peak in 1952, killed 3,000 Americans in one year. Thousands more were paralyzed, but nowhere near hundreds of thousands in the span of a year.
I'm not trying to downplay polio—it's a terrible disease. It was especially scary because primarily impacted children, but by every other measure, the COVID pandemic is far worse than the polio epidemic ever was. In deaths, there's no comparison. In long-term effects, we simply don't know yet. COVID isn't leaving people paralyzed like polio did, but "long COVID" is a thing and organ damage caused by COVID can lead to a host of ongoing health problems.
People downplay COVID by saying most people who get the virus don't get severely sick, but the same is true of polio. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, around 70% of polio cases are totally asymptomic, and another 25% have just mild symptoms. Less than 1% of cases result in paralysis, and far fewer result in death.
And yet, we never hear people say, "We should just take our chances with polio, since most people who get it are fine!" We still vaccinate for it, even though the chances of getting it in the U.S. is practically nil at this point because vaccination has eradicated it.
Some people don't trust the coronavirus vaccines because they think they were approved for use too quickly. But do you know how long it was between the start of clinical trials for the polio vaccine to when it was approved? Less than a year. Clinical trials for the Salk polio vaccine began on 1.8 million children (650,000 of whom got the vaccine, with 1.2 million getting a placebo) on April 26, 1954 and the vaccine was approved April 12, 1955. It wasn't without controversy, of course, but the success of the vaccine speaks for itself.
That was nearly seven decades ago. Think of how far medical research has come since then and how much greater our understanding of infectious disease and immunology is now. We already had enormous amounts of base knowledge about coronaviruses in general, decades of mRNA research under our belt, and more than a decade of mRNA vaccine development already underway, so the quickly developed and tested COVID vaccines are not terribly surprising.
As for proof of vaccination complaints, the polio card post also prompted a flood of other photos of immunization "passports," from record books to reminders that people with smallpox inoculations had to literally show the scar on their arm to prove that they'd been vaccinated.
@0ilvla @interest_mild My parents' cards. Missing one. https://t.co/SpNdrPimLw— TTK 🌊Get Vaxxed You Selfish Children🎃 (@TTK 🌊Get Vaxxed You Selfish Children🎃)1631884934.0
The military has been required to get vaccines for pretty much ever.
@interest_mild @amajdandzic1 Major J A Cooper - stationed in Asia Pacific post war. Spent many years in Army in PNG… https://t.co/ARJR6Sn6jw— Mick - AZ Covax2 - all done (@Mick - AZ Covax2 - all done)1631844946.0
And yes, people with smallpox vaccinations used to have to lift their shirt sleeves to show that they'd been immunized before being allowed to enter some public places.
@DavidLewis61 @interest_mild @GlennKesslerWP I have one of those scars on my left shoulder. It's a very distinctive mark.— 😷MamiSpeaks😷 (@😷MamiSpeaks😷)1631890021.0
Sometimes a "vaccine passport" is literally called a vaccine passport. And many jobs have long required them.
@interest_mild My personal immunisation passport. It actually helped me to get employed in the UK as well; as many… https://t.co/5xNQPJ9g0P— Faroula Kynes (@Faroula Kynes)1631834715.0
One of the unfortunate side effects of living in the information age is that we spend so much time battling misinformation. I recall predictions from disease specialists in March 2020 that we may lose 100,000 to 200,000 Americans to COVID-19, and people scoffing about fearmongering. Here we are 18 months and 680,000 deaths later, still having to convince people that COVID is real, the pandemic is serious, vaccination is good, and requiring proof of immunization for life-threatening infectious disease is not an authoritarian power-grab.
If you're immunized for polio, which you most probably are, being immunized for coronavirus should be a no brainer. The risk of the COVID is much higher, the vaccines have had ample time for testing in comparison to the early days of polio immunization, and the vaccines have been proven safe and effective according to the vast majority of people who are qualified to evaluate such things.
We're all tired of this stupid pandemic. Please do your part and get vaccinated if you are able.