10/27/2014 01:11 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

Encourage -- Don't Discourage -- STEM Dreams

Eighteen years ago, I was a young girl who'd rather solve a math equation than go to recess. Today, I'm a woman who'd prefer to "crack a code" than go shopping. I'm where I am today because my family, friends and teachers nurtured my interests. I was never discouraged. I was encouraged every step of the way.

When I was in middle school, I participated in after-school programs that exposed me to everything from computer skills to dancing skills. Having the opportunity to participate in those programs helped me understand what I wanted to be when I grew up. And my family, friends and teachers kept encouraging me.

When I was a freshman in high school, I attended an academic summer camp at Southern Illinois University -- Edwardsville where I learned the basics of electrical, mechanical, computer, and chemical engineering. After working on a circuit board, creating a mouse robot and studying programming code, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. After that summer camp, I started doing more research on computer programming and what types were available. And my family, friends and teachers kept encouraging me.

A couple summers later, I attended the Upward Bound Math and Science Program at Saint Louis University. There, I learned German (which is the second engineering language), studied calculus, Web design, C++ programming language and so much more! And my family, friends and teachers kept encouraging me.

I went on to Webster University, where I got my bachelor's degree in computer science and minors in mathematics and Web design. Just like in high school, some of my peers wondered why I took high-level calculus and theory of equations. Fact is, those classes were amazing! I enjoyed learning about and working with numbers and exploring theories from the very beginning of "math" times. And my family, friends and teachers kept encouraging me.

Throughout my life, I've made it a mission to pass along all the encouragement I received to future generations. While in high school, I was a student assistant in the same after-school program I participated in while I was in middle school. I tutored and taught kindergarten and first-graders math and science. I've always enjoyed being able to work with students and encourage them to like math and science early on. It's something I continue to do to this day by helping my local Girl Scouts troop learn robotics.

If you have a young lady in your life who shows an interest in science, technology, engineering or math, encourage her, don't discourage her!