New extracurricular Athena Racing program puts girls behind the wheel of their future
As jobs become more STEM-focused, the classroom has become much more widely defined. It can even be found at the racetrack.
That’s right. Those summer days spent racing your first car down country dirt roads could’ve more officially backed your education and future profession.
OK, that might be a stretch, but it is part of the idea behind Athena Racing’s new extracurricular program: Meet young people where their interests are, and help them build and hone related skills while introducing them to related professions they probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
Oh, and to help level the track, the program is for girls only.
Girls statistically have shown less interest than boys in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – the subjects backing today’s most in-demand jobs. Why that might be is another article in itself, but there are many working to change it.
Loxley Browne – Leader of the not-for-profit Athena Racing Program
Leading the not-for-profit Athena Racing program is Loxley Browne. She used to be a racecar driver. She used to be a high-school teacher. She used to be a marketing manager, and an interior designer. She used to, when she was 16, race her Mustang on the country roads surrounding her family’s horse farm.
“The biggest compliment I ever got was from a 17-year-old high-school football player when I was a teacher,” says Browne, Executive Director of Athena. “He said, ‘You know what, Ms. Browne? You are a renaissance woman.’ That’s what I want for these girls. We give them the experience they’ll need for setting a trajectory they can follow their whole life.”
Browne’s zest for life and diverse interests are perhaps exactly the fuel that was needed to develop a robust, first-of-its-kind extracurricular program for girls centered on racing. Athena’s overall goal is to create learning experiences and opportunities for young women that increase their confidence and inspire them to pursue their passion in a STEM-driven world. They will learn about specific opportunities in the automotive field and be prepared for succeeding in a quickly changing job marketplace.
“It could be looked at like this generation’s version of an astronaut program. When Alan Shepherd and John Glenn were in school, their career – being an astronaut – didn’t exist yet,” Browne says. “This program will prepare these young women not only for jobs they weren’t aware existed, but also for jobs that don’t even exist yet.”
With applications being accepted through the end of September, 10 full-ride scholarships (valued at $50,000 each) will be granted to 10 lucky young ladies. The scholarships will cover all of their costs of training, racing, and travel.
Schooled at the Racetrack
Browne was influenced by the Eagle Scout Service Project’s badge requirements in developing the program’s 10 education tracks: driving instruction, mechanics, safety, leadership, entrepreneurship, marketing, photography, public speaking, wellness, and etiquette.
Based in San Diego, Calif., team members will master these tracks during their one-year of study. Experts from racing and business will teach them, providing insights and training in their specialty, and the team will race in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
“We were initially thinking high-school girls, but some younger students might be a good fit too,” Browne says. “All are required to have either a driver’s license or cart-racing experience, and of course their parents’ approval.”
The intensive application, similar to what a student would expect from a university, also includes a 750-word essay, general questions like “What three words would you use to describe yourself?” and a video posted to Instagram where the applicant shares how the course would benefit her.
The first three months of the program will be dedicated to cart racing, followed by SCCA-sanctioned racing of spec Miatas and regulation street Miatas, then topped off with the building and time-trial racing of a Monster Miata: “The girls will drop a V8 into a Miata and get to race it themselves on the Streets of Willow Springs.”
Safety will be high priority, especially as it applies to racing. But general driving safety, including defensive driving skills, will also be a focus.
Most importantly, the girls will develop employable skills, gain confidence, and just have one heck of a fun time doing it.
“The possibilities that will now be offered to them will open doors that were once closed,” Browne says. “In these male-dominated careers, it’s not easy to be the only woman in the room. We are working toward leveling the playing field and showing these young ladies that you can be a smart, beautiful woman who loves cars, racing, wrenching.”
About Athena Racing
Athena Racing is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education extracurricular nonprofit focused on providing training and mentorship to young ladies in high school interested in pursuing innovative careers in the automotive industry. Visit AthenaRacing.org to learn more.