Nearly 1,000 students from around the Napa Valley were bused to the Lincoln Theater in Yountville last Thursday, to watch two films as part of the educational component of the Napa Valley Film Festival.

“Big Dream” and “Underwater Dreams” are documentaries about students who overcome considerable odds to achieve their goals.

According to the census bureau, despite making up about half of the U.S. workforce overall, only about a quarter of workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields — otherwise known as STEM — are women. Statistics also show that young girls are less participatory and do worse in STEM courses than boys.

“Big Dream” takes an inspirational look at young women from all over the world who are defying those statistics.

“We wanted to shine the light on girls who are finding confidence, and who could be seen as role models,” said the film’s director, Kelly Cox. Making the film, Cox knew she would be inspired, but not to the extent she was. “They’re all so different. There’s something so powerful about their stories and at the same time they are so willing to put themselves out there.”

Bella Davenport is a black, high school dropout from a broken home. She said she knows that when people see her, all they see is a black girl. When we meet her she has developed a phone app aimed at keeping drunken drivers off the road, and is now in San Francisco majoring in computer science. “Don’t believe someone if they tell you you can’t do something,” she said.

The girls depicted in the film have individual challenges and their triumphs vary, but what they have in common is a passion in STEM fields and a big dream. They are driven to succeed, they don’t care what other people think of them, and they want to inspire other girls.

Mariana, from Costa Rica, had a dream to go to NASA. She developed a phone app that acts like a cane for blind people and made a TED presentation that caught the eye of the space organization. Although her family is very tight-knit, when she got the chance to intern at NASA, it meant leaving home. She said, “You have to follow your dreams and forget your culture for a moment.”

Martha’s big dream is to win the Nobel Prize before she is 30 years old. She is from Kenya. “Technology came late to Africa,” she said, and that’s something she is working to turn around by introducing technology to students there. At a rescue center for girls she is trying to raise their curiosity about cellphones, computers and other devices.

Sisters Cassidy and Cami Williams, from Iowa, continually provided moral support for one another. Cassidy interned at Microsoft and is passionate about hackathons (computer programming events).

“People think there is only one way to reach your dreams. The reality is there are many different ways to get to one location,” she said. “There’s no greater pleasure in life than doing something people tell you you can’t do.”

For the past three years, the Napa Valley Film Festival has brought educational films into the schools, and this was the first time students participated in the field trip to the Lincoln Theater. Also shown last Thursday was “Underwater Dreams,” about sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants who learned how to build an underwater robot from Home Depot parts, and defeated engineering powerhouse MIT in the process.

Both films are available for showings at individual schools. To learn more about either film or how to host a screening, go to BigDreamMovement.com or UnderwaterDreamsFilm.com.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.

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