In late March, soon after the city of Dallas issued a shelter-in-place order, Kori McKenzie had an idea.
“I just was thinking, ‘How can I give back? Who’s being overlooked right now?’” Kori explained.
Kori, an engineer at Jacobs, had recently begun volunteering for Girls Inc. Dallas. She knew many of the girls she had met would not have the necessary technology to continue school at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. This led her to create a Facebook fundraiser, collecting donations to buy tablets for girls who needed them.
“I didn’t know if anybody was going to donate,” Kori said. “I just planned on giving as much as I could and figured someone else might like the opportunity.”
However, she quickly began receiving larger donations than she expected. First $200. Then another $100. Then $300.
“I was very overwhelmed by the generosity of people,” Kori said. “These people were so willing to give, just because I shared it on Facebook. Most of them I hadn’t even talked to in years!”
Kori’s desire to encourage and empower other girls began at a young age.
“My mom passed away when I was ten … I was really lucky to have some female role models step up in a big way in my life,” Kori said. “They had a big impact on the way I think and live. I love interacting with students because I think I have a lot to share about how you can be as a woman in the world. You don’t have to follow the path that’s been carved for you. With the right influences in your life, you have endless opportunities. So I try to be that influence when I can be.”
Kori first encountered Girls Inc. earlier this year, when Jacobs asked their employees to lead an activity at the Power 2 the Girl Conference.
“For our activity, we had the girls build the tallest balloon tower they could,” she said. “Being an engineer, I had a certain way I would have done things. But watching the imaginative ways the girls were stacking towers was just amazing. They were coming up with better ideas than I ever could have! They saw the challenge in a completely different way. Doing events and activities like this, you really get to appreciate the differences that all of us bring to the table.”
After the Power 2 the Girl conference, Kori began volunteering at Girls Inc. campuses, bringing other engineers and talking with girls about STEM careers.
Kori sees access to education and community as a crucial part of a young girl’s life. Providing girls with the resources to continue learning and connecting with peers is imperative, she says.
“If girls can’t connect to school, they’ve not only lost their opportunity for education but they’ve also lost their entire social network,” she explained. “Our social network is so important to us when we’re young girls. That’s how we form our opinions. That’s how we learn to love one another, by being around each other and observing. And if you’re stuck in the house for months at a time, there’s no way for you to do that.”
Today, Kori has raised enough money to provide 14 tablets to girls who need them. Because of her efforts, these girls will have access to education and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kori believes that it’s important to take action in times of crisis, even if that action is simply sharing a post on social media.
“You never know who that like or share is going to reach,” Kori said. “Often when we’re in spaces of not really knowing what to do, it’s important to just do something.”