Ambria Berksteiner, Founder of Operation One STEM at a Time:

Former pageant queen partners with Girl Scouts to ‘educate, enlighten, and empower’ young women

Ambria Berksteiner
Former pageant queen Ambria Berksteiner wants every-one to know that girls do not have to choose between brains and beauty.

As a youngster, Berksteiner never would have guessed that one day she would be encouraging young women to consider the career path of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Yet, as the founder of “Operation ONE STEM at a Time” she has led the organization to serve as a learning ground for educating hundreds of young girls about futures in STEM.

On August 14, One STEM at a Time will partner with the

Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia (GSHG) for a “Women in STEM Exploration Day Panel.”

This hybrid event will take place both at the GSHG Girl Center located at 535 E. Liberty Street and online from 1-3 p.m.

Berksteiner started Operation One STEM at a Time to serve as a mentoring program aiming to educate, enlighten and empower young women who are interested in pursuing STEM related careers.

The Women in STEM Exploration Day Panel will seek to show local Girl Scouts the various STEM careers they can pursue in the future, while meeting women from our community who already work in the field. Representatives from GulfStream Aerospace, Memorial Health University Medical Center and others will join the panel discussion and the audience to speak about their careers, which are often underserved by women.

Berksteiner said the Engineering Explorer Post program she took at Savannah Arts Academy (SAA) served as the catalyst for her interest in STEM—and ultimately—the work she does today.

The former Miss Black Savannah U.S. Ambassador used to envision herself working in the fashion industry. She said she could see herself one day being on the side of a runway writing for Fashion Week as a fashion journalist, and she had intended on studying communication at SAA to pilot that dream. But seats for that program filled too quickly, and Berksteiner had to take a different route.

Based on her interests, her advisor recommended that she tried the Engineering Explorer Post program instead, where many slots were available. Though reluctant to start an engineering program, her mother and advisor told her, “Just take a chance. Take a leap of faith,” and she did.

Following that, Berksteiner pursued a dual mathematics and engineering degree at Spelman College. Needless to say, she found a new love for STEM.

Berksteiner said she recalls her alma maters’ motto “A choice to change the world” and shares that it inspired her to live up to that motto. With the confidence that she could do or be anything, Berksteiner says she decided to participate in pageants, and incorporated her STEM journey into them.

Berksteiner said her reign as Miss Savannah US Ambassador in 2016 was where the idea for Operation One STEM at a Time was only a bud, and by her reign as Miss Black Savannah USA in 2017 with an extended reign until 2019 her platform had taken form.

As a pageant queen, Berksteiner has made noticeable strides toward embedding the relevance of STEM through-out the region. She received the “STEM Ambassador of Savannah” award from former Savannah mayor Eddie DeLoach.

Her efforts led to Chatham County dubbing August 4 “Women in STEM Appreciation Day.”

Now as program manager alongside Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia Berksteiner continues to work toward her organization’s focus to “educate, enlighten, and empower.”

“I hope what people take away from me is that through Operation One STEM at a Time, I’m doing just that,” Berk-steiner said. “Now that time has passed, so many girls have said to me that they’re going to consider STEM, or they’ve gotten into a STEM program, or that they’re going to be this engineer, this scientist, and it really just wraps it up for me. This is my choice to change the world.”

About The Author

Brandy Simpkins

Brandy Simpkins is a born and raised Savannahian and an alumna of Savannah Savannah State University where she received her B.A. in English Language & Literature. Simpkins enjoys writing more than anything else in the world. She is a curious journalist, an astute essayist, and captivating spoken-word artist...
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