Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 14, 2013

Girl talk about girlTECH


— TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan State Police Trooper Shelley Izzard stood before a roomful of 10th grade girls and fished the tools of her trade from a black riot bag: gas mask, helmet, and wood baton.

“We had to use this equipment during the protest in Lansing against the right-to-work law,” said Izzard, a pretty blonde who has been on the force for 16 years.

Izzard took the baton and pressed it against Katie Stowe of Glen Lake High School, demonstrating how to push back protesters.

Izzard was one of nine women who talked about their work at Wednesday’s girlTECH seminar, now in its 13th year. The seminar intends to inspire girls to explore nontraditional careers and learn about related coursework at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center and Northwestern Michigan College.

The Hagerty Center event drew almost 200 10th grade girls from the five-county Grand Traverse region.

Izzard, one of about 130 women enlisted with the state police, said her training involved doing 301 push-ups without stopping.

“We train all the time because we save people from the water, pull them out of burning cars, give first aid, and I do it side-by-side with a man. We learned how to drive a car as fast as it can go … I’ve caught every bad guy I’ve ever chased,” she said. “I used to have people tell me, you’ll never do it. I am doing it, and I’m making a difference in the world.”

Roberta Wagner of Cone Drive Gearing Solutions discussed engineering in a way that Danielle Merwin of Suttons Bay could appreciate.

“She talked about putting 400 pounds per-square-inch of pressure when you’re wearing high heels,” said Merwin, who is interested in biomedical engineering. “That compares to five pounds per-square-inch when you’re wearing flats.”

The keynote speaker was Maxine Lauer, who founded Sphere Trending, a research firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies. She told teens of research showing their generation is more creative, more likely to look down than up, and impatient. But it was her personal story that inspired McKenzie Tracey of Mancelona High School.

“She told how she grew up, being in foster care, and how she managed to survive and succeed,” she said. “That’s a story I won’t forget. How women are truly strong.”

Tracey said she could relate because her mom dreamed of becoming a lawyer when she was seven or eight years old, but family problems held her back. She cleans motel rooms now.

“I want to become a lawyer; I probably get it from her,” she said. “And I want to study art, too.”

Cristin Hosmer, the sole female winemaker in the area, let students sample Riesling grapes plucked from the hundreds of pounds squished over the weekend. She told the girls about Ph and sugar levels in the wine-making process, and brought along a refractometer to demonstrate.

“I can’t bring all my fun equipment because it’s very, very large. But come to Bel Lago for a visit,” she said of the Leelanau County vineyard and winery.

Mary Ann Schallip, a ship’s captain, told a group of girls she makes $20 an hour, earning admiring “oohs” and “ahs” from the girls.

“It’s not big bucks,” Schallip acknowledged. “Captains that run the freighters make upwards of $150,000 a year ... but I’m having so much darn fun.”

Andrea Maio, a filmmaker and educator, told students to follow their passion, even if their project might not sell. Her “passion project” of five quiet, short videos of folks struggling to make it in a bad economy didn’t appeal to Hollywood, but did lead to two job offers.

“If you put your heart into it, it will lead into advancement,” she said.