Greenwich High School’s Melissa Woo on Making an Impact

Melissa Woo photographed at Greenwich High School. Photo: Leslie Yager

Melissa Woo photographed at Greenwich High School. Photo: Leslie Yager

By Melissa Woo

Lizzie pushes herself sullenly on the swings, uncharacteristically silent. This downcast little girl is the complete opposite of the chatterbox I normally babysit for; something is clearly on her mind.

“Why can’t girls be bosses?” she asks suddenly.

I turn to her, wishing I was surprised that a six-year-old is already experiencing the unmerited gender inequalities of the world.

“What do you mean?” I ask her, unfortunately knowing exactly the path this conversation is about to go down.

“Well, Tommy said that girls can’t be in charge because they aren’t as smart as boys.”

My heart pangs as she looks sadly up at me.

“Tommy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I respond, “Girls can do anything.”

She brightens a little bit. “Really?” she asks, “Anything?”

“Anything.” I say resolutely, “You’ll see.”


I have always been confident in my belief that girls truly can do anything, and I’m so glad that Girls with Impact gave me the opportunity and resources necessary to realize this statement.

Throughout high school, I knew that I wanted to start a nonprofit, to pay my knowledge forward in a way that can help make the world a better place. So, when I enrolled in the Girls with Impact class the fall of my junior year, I couldn’t wait to get my “mini-MBA.” I was excited to have a chance to make the most of my nonprofit idea, proving to both Lizzie and myself that nothing was holding me back from being a “boss,” least of all being a girl.

In joining Girl with Impact, I hoped to launch STEM For All, a nonprofit that would hold coding classes at local elementary schools, libraries, and after school clubs like Boys & Girls Clubs. The tuition and donations from these classes then go toward expanding access to STEM education internationally, buying necessary resources like laptops and contributing funds to STEM programs abroad.

Week after week, I gained more knowledge that would be key as I began prototyping, pitching, and implementing my nonprofit around my community. I gained confidence in public speaking as I practiced my elevator pitch in front of my mentor and other peers in my class. My creativity flourished as I created my own curriculum for the coding classes, figuring out how to recreate “slither.io,” a popular online game among elementary schoolers, on Scratch. I grew more confident as I mobilized groups of friends and volunteers to help at different programs around the community.

In the months since I’ve graduated Girls with Impact, I’ve continued to expand STEM for All. I’ve learned about how I can combine my passion for STEM-related subjects, like science research and computer science, with my interest in entrepreneurship and economics. Helping elementary school students create products of their imagination through the power of coding is captivating. Every week, I get to watch their eyes light up as they clamor for harder projects and create their own features.

I’m so grateful to Girls with Impact for making it possible to fulfill my aspirations and prove to both myself and Lizzie that girls really can do anything. STEM For All and Girls with Impact have become such important parts of my life. I’ve learned that I can’t be afraid to take risks, be it emailing a potential partner or creating a new curriculum, and that rejection is alright – the worst they can say is no, and that’s okay. I will carry these lessons with me in college and beyond; through Girls with Impact, I’ve learned not only how to launch and run a nonprofit, but also that anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard enough. Everyone can make an impact.


Girls With Impact  – a modern day business and innovation academy for NextGen women leaders, ages 12-18.  To ease the burden of working families during #Covid19 the Girls With Impact spring cohort is now free and all live & online. Register now at https://buff.ly/3a4eyaU

See also:

GHS Senior Melissa Woo Receives Equitable Excellence Scholarship