Jillian MacGregor’s passion for STEM education goes far beyond her Nashua South High School classroom. The community-minded senior—a Girl Scout since second grade—developed an after school computing and technology program for girls, and has made it her personal mission to ensure it will keep going long after she’s moved on to college. Her project has earned her a Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.
MacGregor began inspiring others with her computer and technology skills shortly after starting high school. In addition to volunteering at the UNH Manchester STEM Discovery Lab, MacGregor mentored a FIRST Lego League team for middle school girls at the Boys and Girls Club of Nashua, where she also ran a week-long summer computer camp.
After earning the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing Award, MacGregor obtained the grant funding she needed to continue offering her program throughout the school year. The program, held in collaboration with the Nashua School District, trains girls in computer programming, coding, and robotics. Girls also have opportunities to meet some of the region’s leading female industry professionals, allowing them to witness firsthand the perks of pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated professions.
In addition to mentoring younger girls, MacGregor trained older girls who will lead the program in the future. “They were very instrumental in helping ensure this program will go on after I head off to college,” she says
MacGregor said she’s looking forward to leading her after school program during her final year of high school. She teamed up with the national organization, Girls Who Code, giving her program an added curriculum advantage. “We have everything we need now,” MacGregor said with a grin. “I’m pretty immersed in all those program languages right now.”
She credits her years in Girl Scouts for giving her the confidence and support needed to make her dreams a reality. “With Girl Scouts, I could always be part of something bigger and there was always this core group of girls I could turn to,” MacGregor said. “We tried so many new things—like learning CPR. I’m so glad I had these opportunities.”
A longtime computer aficionado, MacGregor was selected to serve as a student STEM ambassador by the NH High Tech Council TechWomen/TechGirls STEM Ambassadors committee several years ago. A drum major and three-season athlete, MacGregor hopes to eventually earn degrees in computer science and engineering. She encourages other Girl Scouts to go for the Gold. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s really something that helps a lot of people, while helping yourself,” she said. “So if you have an idea for a Gold Award project, why not do it?”