Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Jones.
Karen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up in inner-city Philadelphia, Service was always part of my life, on the receiving end. From involvement with the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Scouts, United Way and Salvation Army Programs. I am very blessed for all of the wonderful people and my mom that poured into me their love, their faith and their gifts which helped me to have a strong foundation of community.
I also started my love of Science at an early age and attended an Agriculture High School just outside Philadelphia, and prior to graduating from College with a degree in Chemistry, I volunteered in the lab at the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office. After graduation, I moved to Dallas, Texas with family and started my career with Abbott in Research and Development. I recently retired from Abbott in 2016 after 33 years and while working at Abbott I continued supporting my community by volunteering with various groups involving youth.
In 2003 while living in Northern Illinois, I was introduced by a friend to Denise Mitchell who had a vision of a Girls Program which was titled Chocolate Chips Association. The key focus of the program was friendships and mentoring. We partnered together to create the program in one location and after a few years, we modified the mission to a STEM focus. Due to work transfer, Denise separated from the organization, and in 2010, I became the owner, CEO and President of the Chocolate Chips Association after re-applying for our 501(c)3 Non-Exempt certification.
The mission and goals of the organization continued to expand and we continued to expose more girls to STEM with scientific workshops, coding classes, robotics workshops, field trips, and self-esteem projects. We started the program with one core group of 20 girls each year in 2003 – 2010 and now we have six groups today with over 120 girls in the year 2018.
The Chocolate Chips Association mission is to instill a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Art and Math (S.T. E².A.M.) in elementary aged girls, with a goal of increasing the number of females interested in STEAM-related careers.
Chocolate Chips Association supports each participant in reaching their full potential by providing an engaging educational curriculum and mentorship while instilling values that promote cultural awareness and healthy living. Participants graduate from Chocolate Chips Association with a greater level of confidence and desire to succeed. Serving youth within the local community is Chocolate Chips Association’s ultimate goal.
I am very blessed to continue to share my love of Science with our community girls and watch their passion grow for the sciences as they continue their school careers and start their professional careers in the sciences!
Chocolate Chips Association. www.chocolatechipsassociation.org
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We love sharing STEM with our girls in the community and the impact we have, but our biggest struggle as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization is funding and locating office /storage space.
Also, wanting to give more of our time to a great program while still working 50+ hours, and caring for out of state parents made it very tough. But God is good, and I was able to retire and really focus on my passion which is the Chocolate Chips Association.
Chocolate Chips Association – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a Lake County-based organization of volunteers offering girls a unique and engaging mentoring program focused on exposing participants to Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Art and Math (S.T. E².A.M.).
We are known for our:
– Scientific Workshops
– Computer Coding Classes
– Robotics Workshops
– STEM-focused Field Trips
– Entrepreneurship / Finance Classes
– Self-Esteem Projects
– Civic and Volunteer events
– and our Annual Events:
– Sickle Cell Disease Awareness
– Father and Daughter Dinner
– Mother and Daughter
What sets us apart and what we are most proud of is our volunteers. We continue to have minority women share their gifts with our girls so girls can see themselves in our ladies. That also includes our alumni girls as they return to share with our young girls why our program is so important. And proud that we provide hands on, engaging programs for our core girls in 2nd to 5th grades, and this year provided more programs for girls in 6th to 12 grades too.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
When girls, after attending our Self-Esteem class, share that they were bullied at school, but now feel empowered to speak up. They now know their worth and have a voice, and will speak up for themselves and their new sister friends too.
- Address: 1 N. O’Plaine Road, #86, Gurnee, IL 60031
- Website: www.chocolatechipsassociation.org
- Phone: 224-255-STEM
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org