Madison students solving real-world banking problems in new program for girls

Madison Schools 7th grader Lyla Comer spent part of her summer break as a digital banking officer avatar in a new program designed to encourage teenage girls to consider traditionally male-dominated STEM careers. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
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Madison Schools 7th grader Lyla Comer spent part of her summer break as a digital banking officer avatar in a new program designed to encourage teenage girls to consider traditionally male-dominated STEM careers. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

Madison Middle School student Lyla Comer spent some of her summer break learning inside a virtual banking office designed to teach her and other area girls how to aspire for leadership roles later in life.

It’s part of a new program produced by the non-profit “innoVationGirls” and used by Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank to encourage teenage girls to explore STEM-based careers.

“We used modern technology to solve real-world problems,” said Comer, who will soon be starting the seventh grade at Madison Schools.

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Comer and other Madison girls who participated in the program had virtual offices and avatars designed to digitally insert her into the decision making and collaborative skills needed in the adult work world.

During the paid summer break internet sessions “we all brain-stormed and we learned all opinions are to be valued” while working on what the future of digital banking should look like from their perspective, she said.

Fifth Third officials said the program mirrors its commitment to empowering girls to consider historically male-dominated careers.

“It gives the girls real-world experience and helps keep girls interested in STEM at an age when they often lose interest,” said Laura Trujillo, senior public relations manager for Fifth Third.

“And lets companies work with kids who bring innovative ideas without boundaries. The companies pay innoVationGirls to help sponsor the program. Then innoVationGirls pays the girls for their work. The girls work on real projects with real implications for the companies.”

Madison Schools Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff praised the virtual learning program as ground breaking for teen girls who go on to mentor their peers.

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“It is crucial that educators and parents alike, provide girls with the confidence, experiences and exposure to be problem solvers and true leaders. We are so proud of these young girls who are true inspirations to other young girls,” said Tuttle-Huff.

Comer’s mother, Angela McKay, described the program as “an extraordinary opportunity.”

“It’s about problem-solving and her confidence is growing in part because of this program,” said McKay.

The program helped Comer solidify what she has already suspected, her work future will involve helping others.

“In a way it makes me want to do what I can to make the world a better place,” she said.