This small-town school didn't have money for a science fair. So parents made their own.
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Teaching kids about science can have amazing benefits, but it costs money — which is what one small town in Ohio didn't have.

The city of Springboro operates their schools on a shoestring budget. With a per-pupil cost well below the state average, extracurricular activities in the district have had to be scaled back — including those related to STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Springboro High School. Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.


In fact, budget cuts to STEM education are a nationwide problem, and education cuts have a disproportionate effect on middle- and low-income families. All of which will contribute to the United States falling even further behind in STEM careers worldwide.

Luckily, a group of moms in Springboro decided to take matters into their own hands.

They started STEMfest — an annual science and technology festival run entirely by volunteers and funded completely by donations.

"[Parents could see] the limits of the school district in terms of both human resources and capital," says Karen DeRosa, a STEMfest volunteer and former communications director for Springboro schools. "They really wanted to bring more STEM programs to students."

Springboro STEMfest. Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

The event, sort of a cross between a career day and a science fair, was put together in seven weeks from conception to execution and was a bigger success than anyone could have predicted.

"At first they wanted one large room, thinking they may have 10 or 15 exhibits," DeRosa recalls. "But they kept calling me and saying they needed more space ... they grew to nearly 30 exhibits their first year."

STEMfest, now in its second year, is officially a local phenomenon.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

Exhibitors fill the high school gym and parking lot with interactive stations related to a wide range of science fields and geared toward students of any age.

"They can focus on activities for young students; we could have very complicated high school level, college level things; and we can have everything in between," DeRosa says. "It's really kind of a great family event."

From building with Legos to advanced robotics, music to finger-painting, STEMfest has something for everyone.

All of it is free and not for profit, and DeRosa says that seeing the community engaged with science and tech is a reward in and of itself. "When the organizers look around and see the place is full ... it's exciting."

The event also offers kids the invaluable opportunity to get hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology.

At one station, kids got to work with 3D printers making small handheld objects. At another, they learned to program basic robots. Since 3D printing and automation are industries on the rise, kids at STEMfest are engaging with the jobs of the future. And since STEM industries in general are some of the fastest growing in the United States, getting to work directly with industry-leading technology is a huge advantage.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

According to Education Week, you can't start STEM education early enough — children are naturally curious scientists and engineers, and nurturing that curiosity has a direct connection to kids pursuing the vital science and technology careers of the future.

Karen DeRosa agrees. "We think that natural curiosity is so vital to tap into," she says. "And the traditional classroom and traditional curriculum can’t always reach everyone with the same level of interest or activity. STEMfest gives that opportunity."

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

Most of all, STEMfest shows how powerful a community can be when they're driven to inspire.

Springboro had to overcome a dire lack of funding to pull off STEMfest, and they did it because they worked together as a community. Parents, teachers, students, and anyone else who could spare money or time came together to create a uniquely engaging and inspiring event.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

When an absence of federal money leaves gaps in education, communities have the ability to step up and fill those gaps. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to inspire them and help shape them into the leaders of the future.

That's exactly what Springboro is doing.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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