Three Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart juniors met Priscilla Chan, one of the world's leading philanthropists and the wife of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, at an exclusive event hosted as part of the Grace Hopper Celebration which seeks to promote women in technology.
Juniors Sofia Varner, Lena Shadow, and Jamison Tarver were selected to attend the event due to their interest and aptitude in technology. They are all on Duchesne's award-winning Iron Plaid robotics team. Varner and Tarver have also worked at Duchesne's technology helpdesk, known as the CAVE, and Taver also participated in a national cybersecurity competition
"Being able to attend this event meant so much to me," said Varner. "I've always gotten super excited about empowering women and helping others through STEM, so being in a room filled with incredible, inspirational people who thought the same way felt like a dream."
The event was held at the Four Seasons Hotel and included networking opportunities leaders from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) who discussed their technology efforts on education, science, and justice and opportunity. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg founded CZI in 2015 to support a wide range of initiatives, from reforming education to addressing housing affordability. The couple has pledged 99% of the value of their Facebook shares, estimated to be worth more than $45 billion.
A highlight of the event was the audience Q&A with Priscilla Chan where she discussed topics ranging from empowering women in the workplace to defining a small goal in the bigger picture and how to make that knowledge available to every person around the world. The intimate event included fewer than 100 people, far less than the 20,000 who attended the Grace Hopper Celebration at the George R. Brown Convention Center where Chan was a featured speaker. Duchesne was able to obtain access to the event from Alex Stapleton '98, a Duchesne alumna who is working on a project with Priscilla Chan.
The three Duchesne students, along with Debbie Meza, Duchesne's Educational Technology Manager, also met with Chan individually after the event. She spoke with the girls about the Iron Plaid robotics team and selecting a college major, and she posed for a few photos.
"Getting to speak with Priscilla was amazing," said Varner. "She was incredibly kind and open to sharing her wisdom with us, and even asked us a few questions about Iron Plaid!"
"It was amazing to be able to talk with a woman who had achieved so much in her life and was so passionate about her work," said Shadow. "After talking with her, I feel certain that success is attainable with hard work and that one woman really can make a difference in the world."