Fremd student expands mission to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers

Ruby Arun, a sophomore at William Fremd High School in Palatine, is expanding her mission to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Ruby recently was recognized by the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board after her organization, Mission: MathMinds, donated more than 2,000 books to district schools. Her donation, worth $20,000, was part of the district's STEM Awareness Campaign, which collected more than 15,000 books worth about $160,000.

This winter, Mission: MathMinds' team of mentors visited several elementary/middle schools and foster care programs within District 15 communities to spread awareness about STEM.

A first-generation Indian American, Ruby, 15, of Inverness, has a passion for mathematics and has been participating in school math teams since third grade. She started the nonprofit Mission: MathMinds to create more interest in math fields at a younger age, so more girls are keen to join STEM fields.

Last year, her nonprofit hosted numerous STEM awareness events for girls, including a national conference on female role models in STEM fields in Arlington Heights. Ruby has created a platform for female role models in STEM on her website, where videos of conversations with leaders are posted.

“Our national conference we are planning for March around spring break,” Ruby said. “We (will) have around eight to 10 female leaders speaking about their experiences. Middle school and high school students is the audience we are targeting.”

A virtual “Connecting the Dots in Medicine Workshop” will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Feb. 6, featuring female leaders from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Michigan. Register at

Fremd High School sophomore Ruby Arun, center, and her team of Mission: MathMinds mentors recently were recognized by the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board for donating more than 2,000 books to district schools. Courtesy of Ruby Arun

Ruby's book drive also is ongoing. So far, her nonprofit has distributed more than 13,000 books to District 15, Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54, Chicago Public Schools, and to Ukrainian refugees in Poland, France and Italy. It will be hosting book drives in partnership with the Buehler YMCA in Palatine, the Foglia YMCA in Lake Zurich and the Alfred Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg.

“Our goal for this year is 50,000 books,” Ruby said.

College resource

Waubonsee Community College's Latinx Resource Center will host free learning events this spring to help families and students navigate the college landscape.

The events are open to parents of area high school and Waubonsee college students and will be held at its Aurora Downtown Campus, 18 S. River St.

“Colegio de Empoderamiento” sessions, focusing on the importance of higher education, will be bilingual in Spanish and English. They will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 25, March 25 and April 29. Families will learn how to find appropriate resources and self-advocate. Registration is required.

This summer, the center will host a Latinx Summer Institute for first-time Waubonsee college students. The five-day program will run Aug. 14-18, teaching Latinx students what they need to be successful in college and how to choose a career path. The program also will connect them with important resources. Registration is required.

More than 30% of Waubonsee students identify as Hispanic. Its Latinx Resource Center opened last spring as a one-stop shop for resources, support services and educational experiences. It provides a venue for students and community members to learn about Latinx culture, heritage and traditions.

“We value the multiple identities of our families, their roots, and their cultures, and we prepare them to motivate our students, which often starts at home,” said Franklin Ortega-Palaguachi, center manager.

For more information or to register for these events, visit

Cultural fair

Northbrook's Community Commission will present a Cultural Fair on Feb. 26, in partnership with the North Suburban YMCA.

The event will run from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Y, 2705 Techny Road in Northbrook, and is free and open to the public. It will feature artistic displays, musical acts, dance demonstrations, education/information tables, henna artists, arts and crafts, a karate demonstration, and samples of food from different cultures.

“We have hosted for three years previously, and this year promises to provide our community with a meaningful, educational and fun experience for all ages,” said Kim Nyren, North Suburban YMCA director of community investments and events. “We are proud to be a home for the community to learn, experience and appreciate the strength of our diversity.”

It's the first time since the pandemic the cultural fair is back in town.

For information, visit

Jewish studies

Oakton College in Des Plaines is launching a new speaker series highlighting Jewish history, culture and contributions.

“With the rise of hate groups, it is critical that we learn more about Jewish history and other religions and cultures to help us better understand one another and gain an appreciation of our diversity and perspectives,” said Wendy Adele-Marie, professor of history and Jewish studies coordinator.

Oakton's Jewish Studies program will offer the series of free virtual events that are open to the public. Presentations include:

Feb. 9 - The Nazi's granddaughter: How I discovered my grandfather was a war criminal, 11 a.m. with Silvia Foti, author of the memoir “Storm in the land of rain: A mother's dying wish becomes her daughter's nightmare.” Join at

March 2 - How happiness thinks, 6 p.m. with Rabbi Meir Shimon Moscowitz, regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, senior rabbi of Lubavitch Chabad of Northbrook and a longtime instructor with the Jewish Learning Institute. Join at

March 23 - Nursing and the American Civil War, 11 a.m. with historian Brad Stone highlighting key Jewish figures' contributions in medicine during the Civil War, which helped forge the development of the modern field of nursing, advanced hospital systems and new concepts in treating the mental and emotional scars of war. Join at

May 2 - Marilyn Monroe and Judaism, 11 a.m. with April VeVea, author of “Marilyn Monroe: A day in the life.” Join at

May 9 - Jews in America today, 11 a.m. with Rabbi Kenneth Berger, who has served on the executive committee of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. Join at

For more information, visit

Teacher diversity

Illinois State Board of Education's Education Career Pathway Grants are preparing 10,805 future teachers in high schools statewide.

The program, launched in 2020, aims to help school districts better meet local teacher pipeline needs. Grants provide students of all backgrounds teaching experience and aim to increase the diversity of the state's teacher workforce - 45% of students in the pathway program identify as Black or Hispanic, compared to just 14% of current teachers.

Illinois has increased student enrollment in education preparation programs by 41% - up from 8,534 in 2017 to 12,069 in 2021. Schools statewide reported 2,139 unfilled teaching positions in October 2021, concentrated in under-resourced communities and bilingual and special education.

A total of 171 high schools now offer Education Career Pathways.

The state education board has released $18 million in grants to these programs that allow students to get a head start on teacher preparation through hands-on learning, dual credit, credentials and mentorship.

Another round of grants will be awarded early this year.

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