We're constantly amazed by all the incredible things Galileo staff go on to do. For many bright, creative people, even one summer with Galileo can have a profound impact as a waypoint on a meaningful journey. From campers with ideas for visionary inventions to staffers with the determination to transform the educational landscape (or their own lives), Galileans come away from the camp experience with the confidence and drive to do great things.
We recently caught up with one such doer of great things, Katie Kirsch, a graduate of Stanford, employee of IDEO and co-founder of the organization Girls Driving for a Difference. But the first "real job" on Katie's impressive resume dates back to high school, when she was a summer intern at Camp Galileo Los Altos.
Katie remembers the camp community as "playful, active, thoughtful and creative", a place that taught her lessons both small and profound. "I'll never forget the time a camper cried to me for the first time," she said. "I knelt down beside her but didn't know what to say or do to make things right. Another counselor knelt down beside us, and she did this amazing, simple thing—she just softened her voice. And our camper, as if by magic, calmed down so naturally in response. It continues to surprise me how much the little details matter, and that it's not as much about what you say or do as it is about how."
Beyond what she learned, Katie's experience at camp also ignited a new passion. "My experience at Galileo exposed me to what it means to be a teacher and role model," she explained. "It sparked a fire in me that grew over time, as I sought more opportunities to work with youth and design new learning experiences that would push their thinking in creative directions."
That desire to design new experiences led Katie to the d.school at Stanford, where the space, with its "moving whiteboard walls, modular workspaces, standing desks, colorful drawings and playful pieces all drew [her] in. In some ways," she said, "it reminded me of camp—an environment where learning, play and exploration came hand in hand."
During her junior year, Katie and three friends from Stanford founded Girls Driving for a Difference (GDD), teaching workshops that empower middle school girls to become leaders of social change. Their workshops, which have reached over 1500 girls in the past year, use d.school-inspired design thinking tools to build confidence, helping girls become leaders, start entrepreneurial projects and innovate to improve the world around them.
Girls Driving for a Difference (which, like Galileo, aims to inspire kids to effect change) takes a mindset-focused approach to education, one that "goes far beyond teaching things like math, writing or history—it's not a series of facts or formulas that you can learn and get right. It's a mindset," Katie explains. "Kids can learn all the math and science that they want, but without the belief that they can build impactful things in the world and achieve whatever they put their minds to, these hard skills fall short."
Currently, Katie is putting her own formidable combination of hard skills and confident mindset to work at her role in marketing at IDEO, "writing stories and developing the kind of content that will inspire people," and at GDD, teaching young women that "the future is inclusive, exploratory and ready to be created by them."
If the life this Galileo alumna has created for herself is any indication, that future will have plenty of inspiring, difference-making stops along the way.