Bronte, 19 – FUNDED

Brontë Johnson, an undergraduate student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, just about 90 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., is passionate about nearly every aspect of STEAM. The Paliwal Club of 100 grant winner is not only majoring in Computer Science, she’s also a Film Studies and Journalism major in the School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) program. That may sound like a lot — and it is! But, it is all serving the goals of this ambitious undergrad student to merge her love of tech and creativity into one big career package.

What is your professional dream?

The career I aspire to achieve lies within the entertainment field. With my dual majors, I hope to intertwine the world of technology with the world of storytelling and film. For example, I could be an expert in CGI (computer-generated imagery) as well as a director/producer on set. That is my dream!

What does being in the Paliwal Club mean to you?

The Paliwal Club has earned a place in my heart. Although that sounds super cliché, I recognize the importance of the work the Paliwal Club is producing, and the potential impact on thousands of girls in the future. I believe in organizations like these because I can sense the commitment, and it inspires me to do the same.

As I began to transition out of high school, I remember seeing girls who reminded me of myself. Young girls becoming young women, beginning to formulate who they were to become. This time in their lives is critical to their future success, which is why I have made a commitment of my own: Every organization I become a part of, every program I apply for, I pass right down to them. I really do believe that if one of us succeeds, then the rest will follow.

The Paliwal Club understands the importance of uplifting every girl, and that means a lot to me. So, in turn, the Paliwal Club means a lot to me as well.

Women are underrepresented in STEAM. How can we change this?

Lead by example! I have spoken on a plethora of panels, traveled to cities, worked with companies, and have given many, many speeches, in relation to technology and STEAM. However, I just don’t do this as a resume booster. I do it because I want other young women to do the same. Honestly, I want them to one day be even better than me! I think that if we set the bar high, young women will aspire to meet that goal and reach even higher. If they see women rocking it in STEAM, they’ll think that it’s possible or achievable for them as well — which it totally is!

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

At times, being the only female in my STEM classes really discouraged me. Unfortunately, my case isn’t unique — sometimes it feels like I am the only female minority in my programming and technology classes, and it really begins to feel worse when you aren’t understanding the material. When you are lost, sometimes you feel like you’re very isolated, or no one can truly understand you. The biggest challenge for me was overcoming these barriers. It is difficult because it isn’t a physical problem you can fix. Being able to feel confident in yourself, assertive, as well as remembering you BELONG in the classroom just like everyone else, is hard to do. But, every day I am working on it, and I hope to inspire girls to do the same.

How will this grant from the 1,000 Dreams Fund help you reach your goals?

This grant will enable me to chase my dreams! I have always wanted a career in STEAM, and this grant goes directly towards it. Now, I can begin to really sculpt my presence in the gaming and technology world. I can pursue an education that will make me appealing to future employers and companies. This grant helps me spend less hours at the counter at work and more hours in the classroom studying. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be able to be awarded this grant. This helps me so much. I am beyond words, and beyond grateful!