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TECH AGE GIRLS                  2011 EXCHANGE NEWSLETTER ―    We develop our  communities  by developing  ourselves       ...
Participant ProfilesAmanda Zhaparova                   Daria Azina                    Zina Kabylbek kyzy9th grader,       ...
ABOUT TECH AGE GIRLS                  The Tech Age Girls (TAG) pro-             IREX started the Tech Age Girls project in...
TECH AGE GIRLSHost teacher Nicholas Kirschman played dual                “I am personally inspired by our interactionroles...
TECH AGE GIRLSteacher Ron Eisenman. During her visit, she gave18 presentations at her school, shadowed the dra-ma club and...
TECH AGE GIRLSOn October 24, the girls met Seema Jalan fromWomen Thrive Worldwide. Jalan explained thatwomen are at the gr...
TECH AGE GIRLSExchange Participants Gain Invaluable Wisdom on Careers, Lifefrom Woman-Owned BusinessDuring the Tech Age Gi...
TECH AGE GIRLSFrom Inspiration to Action: TAGs Present Plans to Bring Wisdom HomeOn October 27, the last full day of the T...
TECH AGE GIRLSImpact of TAG in Kyrgyzstan: Alumni Success StoriesThanks to the leadership and IT skills they gained       ...
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Tech Age Girls (TAG) Kyrgyzstan exchange to the US newsletter


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Zina Kabylbek kyzy, Amanda Japarova, and Daria Azina, three TAG Alumni, came to the United States in October 2011 to meet successful women
leaders, see how youth use technology to benefit their education, and to gain first-hand experience in how American youth participate in community service and extracurricular activities in their schools and neighborhoods.

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Tech Age Girls (TAG) Kyrgyzstan exchange to the US newsletter

  1. 1. TECH AGE GIRLS 2011 EXCHANGE NEWSLETTER ― We develop our communities by developing ourselves ‖Tech Age Girls in Kyrgyzstan is implemented through GlobalConnections and Exchange, which is a program of the UnitedStates Department of State’s Bureau of Educational andCultural Affairs, and the Digital Youth Dialogue program, whichis funded by the United States Embassy in Kyrgyzstan.
  2. 2. Participant ProfilesAmanda Zhaparova Daria Azina Zina Kabylbek kyzy9th grader, 10th grader, 11th grader,School No. 8, Naryn School No. 2, Karakol School No. 7, NarynTO: Rutland High School, TO: Sabino High School, TO: Webster Groves High School,Rutland, Vermont Tucson, Arizona Webster Groves, MissouriBlog: Blog: Blog: http://takazag.kloop.kgLeadership projects Leadership projects Leadership projectsin Kyrgyzstan: in Kyrgyzstan: in Kyrgyzstan:“No Smoke with IT,” a unique Training fellow students to Teaching IT skills to girls,advocacy campaign combining make effective use of inter- while having serious, openIT training and awareness of the net resources and new web discussions about bride kid-dangers of smoking tools napping in KyrgyzstanHighlight of trip: Highlight of trip: Highlight of trip:In Rutland, Zhaparova met Learning about community Explaining her work in TAGand received advice from mapping from graduate stu- and learning about being athe city’s Mayor as well as dent Kristin Wisneski, coor- woman in science whilethe Treasurer, the highest dinator of an at-risk youth speaking to NASA astronautranking official in Rutland technology transfer program Sandra Magnus — In Russian! at the University of Arizona
  3. 3. ABOUT TECH AGE GIRLS The Tech Age Girls (TAG) pro- IREX started the Tech Age Girls project in Kyrgyz- ject addresses the lack of stan in 2010 and held its second round in 2011. skilled women in the field of From June 27 to July 9, 2011 the efforts of the information technology (IT) by Tech Age Girls (TAG) project culminated in a two- encouraging and training the week conference for 34 outstanding young women most promising young female throughout Kyrgyzstan who developed their IT and computer specialists. Through leadership skills. These talented, driven girls a process in which they have then returned to their homes, where they are us-the opportunity to further develop IT skills, learn ing their new skills and experiences to implementfrom successful female leaders, and design their projects that will benefit their communities. To-own community projects, participants take their gether, the TAG implementing partners have laidfirst steps toward entering one of the most prom- the foundation for a talented group of youngising and dynamic fields in the global economy. women to shape their country’s future.From Kyrgyzstan to the United States: Three Tech Age GirlsPromote Cross-Cultural Understanding Zina Kabylbek kyzy, Amanda Japarova, and Daria The exchange participants arrived in Washington, Azina, three TAG Alumni, came to the United DC on October 11, where they spent several days States in October 2011 to meet successful women in training sessions and meetings with role models leaders, see how youth use technology to benefit and teachers. Early in the morning on October 15, their education, and to gain first-hand experience the three girls went their separate ways to their in how American youth participate in community host sites for nine days to learn about life, cul- service and extracurricular activities in their ture, technology, and community service at schools and neighborhoods. As they took this in- schools who have participated in online projects formation in, they also gave presentations to with Kyrgyzstan their host classmates on Kyrgyzstan’s culture. After arriving in Webster Groves, 2010 TAG alum- na Kabylbek kyzy, from Naryn’s School No. 7, was a visiting student at Webster Groves High School. In addition to her activities at school, Zina learned a great deal about women and life in and around St. Louis. During a trip to the city’s Sci- ence Center, she met NASA astronaut Sandra Mag- nus at a presentation. “[When I entered the presentation room,] a man asked me if I was a future Astronaut, and I thought it was a joke, so I replied, “yes, I am!”, Kabylbek kyzy explained. Introducing herself to Magnus she explained the Tech Age Girls program Amanda Zhaparova of Naryn gives a presentation on Kyr- to the Astronaut “I was so inspired!” wrote Ka- gyzstan to US high school students in Rutland, Vermont bylbek kyzy about the encounter. (Continued on page 4)
  4. 4. TECH AGE GIRLSHost teacher Nicholas Kirschman played dual “I am personally inspired by our interactionroles, also hosting Kabylbek kyzy with his family – [with TAG Daria Azina] and know that mywife Christine, daughter Bethany, and their two heart is definitely committed to more ex-pet dogs. Kirschman gave the TAG an extensive periences where I can have similar techtour of the St. Louis area, visiting the famous transfer exchanges like this one.”Arch landmark, attending a pumpkin harvest, — Kristin Wisneski,trips to several of the city’s museums, and an in- Graduate Student, University of Arizonatroduction to baseball during the World Seriestournament, in which St. Louis’ team, the Cardi-nals, competed and won. Reflecting on the expe- and solve problems in their community. Wisneskirience, she shared, ―I am their new fan!‖ trained Azina in how to use a GPS device to navi- gate an unfamiliar area and how to mark way- points to an online map service, followed by a session with the youth volunteers, discussing their favorite online tools for sharing ideas and creat- ing community change. In Tucson, Azina stayed with the Larsons – Host Robert and his daughter KJ, a student at Sabino High School. Shadowing KJ at Sabino and through- out the southwestern city, Daria was welcomed into a circle of friends, taken to her first Ameri- can football game, and took a long walk through Tucson’s Sabino Canyon with the family; she even had her first taste of authentic Mexican food dur- ing her stay.TAG alumna Zina Kabylbek kyzy carves a pumpkin to cele- brate the upcoming Haloween festivities in Webster Groves, MissouriMeanwhile, in Tucson, Arizona, Daria Azina, a10th grader from Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, gave 24presentations about Kyrgyzstan to classes atSabino High School-reaching approximately 600students at Sabino, arranged by host teacherDavid Kukla with the gracious support of his col-leagues Carl Dickason and Irina Kamenkovich.Azina had several rewarding tours and activitiesat institutions in Tucson. During her week there,Azina met with University of Arizona Graduate Daria Azina with a youth volunteer of the Akshen pro-Student Kristin Wisneski and Professor Barron Orr, ject in Tucson, learning how to use a GPS deviceof the university’s Office of Arid Lands Studies(OALS). At OALS, Azina learned about youth-driven Community Asset Mapping, and a new pro- In Rutland, Vermont, Amanda Japarova of Schoolgram working with youth volunteers to design and No. 8 in Naryn visited the campus and communitydevelop a mobile application for youth to identify of Rutland High School, hosted by GCE partner
  5. 5. TECH AGE GIRLSteacher Ron Eisenman. During her visit, she gave18 presentations at her school, shadowed the dra-ma club and a community church’s charity opera-tions, and met with local government and busi-ness leaders.Zhaparova lived with the Reilly family – hostsSean and Karen, and their daughter Erin. TheReillys exposed Zhaparova to culture and dailylife in Vermont, including a visit to a museum inBurlington, tours of the town, a trip to their localchurch to observe a youth community service ac-tivity, and lots of quality time with the family andtheir five pets. Amanda Zhaparova spends quality time with the host family dog in RutlandFrom Education to Inspiration: The Tech Age Girls Return toWashington, Meet with Leaders in the Nation’s CapitalThough sad to leave their host families and school While in Washington D.C., the TAGs also met withcommunities, the Tech Age Girls were right back staff members from the offices of Congressmanin action the day after their return to Washing- Russ Carnahan (Missouri) and Congressman Raulton. During the week of October 23, they met nu- Grijalva (Arizona) to discuss the importance ofmerous leaders hailing from the business, govern- supporting young women and the use of technolo-ment, and non-profit worlds. gy in development. The girls shared their experi- ence about their visit to US high schools and howThe first meeting upon their return was with Ve- youth use technology at school in the Unitedronica Zeitlin, Foreign Affairs Officer at the Unit- States and Kyrgyzstan.ed States Agency for International Development(USAID), with significant experience in the fightagainst human trafficking worldwide. Zeitlintalked about the goals and activities of her de-partment, pointing out that they work to improvewomen’s equality and empowerment, becausewhen conditions for women’s economic successimprove, the benefits are more likely to ―trickledown‖ to the whole family.The TAGs were inspired by Zeitlin’s choice to fol-low her beliefs and choose a more personally re-warding career. ―During the meeting it was hardnot to notice how Ms. Zeitlin spoke about the ac-tivities of her department with such strong dedi-cation. I really admire her, because she loves The Tech Age Girls meet Representativewhat she does,” commented Zina Kabylbek kyzy. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and his counsel Joseph Mais (Continued on page 6)
  6. 6. TECH AGE GIRLSOn October 24, the girls met Seema Jalan fromWomen Thrive Worldwide. Jalan explained thatwomen are at the greatest risk of poverty anddomestic violence, and described how WomenThrive pushes the US government to change this.Listening to her stories about how how WomenThrive works to improve the lives of women indeveloping countries, the TAGs got some new ide-as for their future community projects. Kabylbekkyzy reflected that “I understand now that wedon’t need to wait for help; we can start thiswork today. We can help women in our communi-ty to build a better future with the resourcesavailable and the skills we received in TAG.” Seema Jalan of Women Thrive International with the TAGsTAGs Explore Student Journalism in the United States at AnnandaleHigh SchoolDuring their time in Washington, the TAG partici- the girls might create their own student journal-pants got a behind-the-scenes tour of Annandale ism programs with limited resources, recommend-High School’s journalism program, thanks to jour- ing building an electronic-only site with bloggingnalism teacher Alan Weintraut, and the editorial software as a great way to of the A-Blast, Annandale’s student newspaper. Julia Hanneman, the faculty head of the school’s yearbook team, also gave the TAGs a unique look into student publishing, explaining the role of a yearbook and using it as a great resource to give the girls a first look into the kind of extracurricu- lar choices American students have in their schools. Kabylbek kyzy wrote of the yearbook pro- gram on her blog, saying, “I was really glad to learn about yearbook, because I have never heard about it before. I think it is [a] really great idea to make the book, because every year the book changes..., all students are involved and take pic- Liz Wilson, Web Editor of Annandale High School’s tures [of the school year!]” student newspaper, gives Zina Kabylbek kyzy a tour of the newspaper’s online presence The visitors from Kyrgyzstan were particularly ex- cited to learn of Annandale’s Muslim Students As-During the visit, the A-Blast’s Co-Editor in Chief sociation, giving them a better idea of the diversi-CJ Aftergut, Managing Editor Nikki Contrino, and ty often found in schools in the United States. An-Web Editor Liz Wilson took the girls through the nandale High School is a unique example, with aprocess of establishing a student newspaper, ex- student body hailing from over 90 countries andplaining the work that goes into the process from speaking over 50 languages at home.start to finish, and gave concrete advice on how
  7. 7. TECH AGE GIRLSExchange Participants Gain Invaluable Wisdom on Careers, Lifefrom Woman-Owned BusinessDuring the Tech Age Girls’ final week in the Unit- At Sonjara, they explained, technology is a tooled States, they paid a visit to a local woman- for empowerment of women, enabling them toowned and operated business, meeting CEO and create flexible and mobile workplaces while theyco-owner Siobhan Green and her staff at Sonjara, balance family and professional responsibilities.Inc. Sonjara is a small consulting company thatspecializes in developing and bringing internet The most impactful part of the girls’ visit, howev-technologies to organizations and groups around er, came as the staff imparted some of their ownthe world for social benefit. wisdom upon the girls, looking back on their own lives in and out of the workplace. Their advice: “People may tell you you can be either Choose well in whom you marry, and make that mothers or leaders. This is a false relationship belong to the two of you equally choice. Change the context, and you before anyone else; Own your own choices, and change the choices available to you.” acknowledge the benefits and consequences of each of them; and most importantly, failure is —Siobhan Green, CEO of Sonjara, Inc. an option -- failure is the best way to learn from having tried something new.The conversation started around the staff’s expe-rience running a technology company as women inthe context of the United States. As Green re-counted on her company’s blog,“We talked - about our experiences as women, asmothers, as wives and partners, as employees andstudents. We shared stories about how welearned from our failures, how we learned by do-ing and not knowing exactly what we were doing.The challenges and the opportunities we facedalong the way, such as skuzzy guys lurking in in-ternet forums, computer geeks looking at us like Sonjara Inc’s staff share wisdom with TAGswe were another species, the formal and infor-mal messages about "girls being bad at math andscience", and the expectation that we would not The girls agreed that the two hours they spent atbe responsible for substantial income contribu- Sonjara were by far the most impactful meetingtions in our families.” they had. For Zina Kabylbek kyzy, the advice of not settling for early marriage just because anGreen and her staff explained that even in the offer arrives, and giving oneself time to study andUnited States, working in technology is an uphill achieve her own career stood out: “[Sonjara CEObattle for women, but it is worth the extra strug- Green] said that we must study in order to getgle. Green explained that the obstacles women everything we want, and also I really liked whatencounter inspired her to build a supportive office she said: “It is very difficult to find a person withculture to families and equality, cognizant of the whom you’ll be ready to live forever”… Yeah, I―second shift‖ one partner—most often the wom- agree with her even [if] I’m a little girl. I wasan—usually has to work when returning home every day. thinking a lot after these words.”
  8. 8. TECH AGE GIRLSFrom Inspiration to Action: TAGs Present Plans to Bring Wisdom HomeOn October 27, the last full day of the Tech Age The session concluded with TAGs Kabylbek kyzyGirls’ exchange to the United States, the girls col- and Azina presenting on the differences betweenlected, reflected upon, and presented their the ―American ideal‖ of technology use in thethoughts on all the work that had gone into each classroom, and ―the Kyrgyzstan reality‖ -- often,step of their journey at an event facilitated by technology that may appear crucial to a classroomUnited States Institute for Peace’s Gender and in the United States, may not be effective or real-Peacebuilding Center Director Kathleen Kuehnast, istic given challenges in Kyrgyzstan over budgets,titled ―Expanding Youth Horizons through Tech.‖ internet reliability, or even electricity.At this event, Kabylbek kyzy, Zhaparova, and In their presentations, the girls opted to focus onAzina presented to about 20 international devel- solutions, rather than problems. In St. Louis, Zinaopment professionals on their experiences in the Kabylbek kyzy marveled at the use of Smart BoardsUnited States, giving comparisons of the use of at Webster Groves High School. Smart Boards aretechnology in American classrooms and their own, a type of interactive whiteboard which uses pro-as they underscored the importance of technology jectors and special pens to make using interactiveprograms like Tech Age Girls in their peers’ per- charts and graphics easy. Kabylbek kyzy thoughtsonal and educational development. of how much time could be saved for teachers by using this technology in her classes. However, smart boards are expensive, so she devised an al- ternative using just a projector, a computer, and a whiteboard, all tools her school already has. Daria Azina, presented her own approaches to community mapping that she modified from what she learned while visiting the University of Arizo- na. “If we don’t have something, it doesn’t mean we will stop,” she said. “It means we will use something we have.” Though surely sad to leave the United States, the exchange participants begin a crucial next chap- ter of their story: sharing their experience with TAG Zina Kabylbek kyzy explains her idea for emulating others. Though they worked very hard to for this the smartboard technology in Kyrgyzstan’s schools visit, they also represent scores of girls who haveDuring the roundtable, Zhaparova explained that not yet come to the United States. The TAGs rep-in Kyrgyzstan, gaining internet access--and the resented them abroad, and now return with newknowledge to use it--has immensely helped her knowledge, skills, and and lessons to share withand her classmates conduct school research. Her them.local library lacks a wide selection of books, andso when her class is given a research assignment, In November, Kabylbek kyzy will reconnect within the past the students would clamor for the her host teacher in St. Louis, Nicholas Kirschman,same handful of outdated encyclopedia volumes. in an online project with his students titled ―CrossToday, they all know how to use the internet, and Cultural Psychology,‖ and plans are under way forare able to quickly find current information from Amanda Zhaparova and Daria Azina to reconnecttheir school computer lab. with their host schools later in this school year.
  9. 9. TECH AGE GIRLSImpact of TAG in Kyrgyzstan: Alumni Success StoriesThanks to the leadership and IT skills they gained Aijarkyn Aisakhunovaduring the Tech Age Girls process, a number of was accepted to thealumni have been accepted to universities around American University ofthe world after graduating secondary school: Central Asia. Practicing her language during the Aidai Asanbekova, a 2010 TAG conference with TAG Alumna is very active Peace Corps Volunteers in her community, organiz- and learning how to ing projects and events write essays, she earned that make it a better place very good scores on TOEFL to live. Asanbekova re- (the higher education English language entry ex- ceived a Golden Certifi- amination) was accepted to the International and cate, meaning that she Comparative Politics program at the university.could get a place at any University in Kyrgyzstan ―In the future I want to work in international or-with full scholarship to study. She decided, how- ganizations; [though] for now I am not quite sureever, to apply for International universities, to where, I want to work in the development sec-experience the educational system in another tor.”country, including the role of youth in communi-ty. Asanbekova was accepted into the Interna- No matter which career they choose, each of the-tional Business and Economic Relations program se girls, like their fellow TAG alumni, are commit-at Boston University. “I want to work in the pri- ted to serving their communities and enrichingvate sector… my dream is to open my own busi- the lives of those around them; TAG helped themness. This is my short term goal, and in my long get where they are today, and they all know theyterm goal I see myself in government,” shared will return the favor by helping those aroundAsanbekova. them as they continue into their adult lives. You can follow TAG through Facebook at https:// Aidai Muratbekova and on Twit- is now studying at ter at #TAGKG. the Institute for Tourism Studies in Macau, China with a specialization in Hotel Management. After the participa- To all the teachers and families tion in TAG pro- who made this exchange such aject, her IT and leadership skills helped to do alot of research on where to study and where to success, thank you. It could notlook for scholarships. TAG trainings in goal setting have been done without you.definitely played a big role as she started plan-ning for her undergraduate studies right after the Your hospitality as ambassadors2010 Tech Age Girls conference. ―Today, I realize for America is the reasonhow much I grew and improved with Tech AgeGirls. All the skills and experiences which I have exchange programs are so impact-gained during the whole project help me succeed ful upon their participants!here, and believe me; life in China is not easy.My IT skills have helped me study.”