Making light sticks at Victoria University After a one-year hiatus due to Covid-19, Innovative Young Minds’ IYM Residential 2021 programme ran in July this year and 39 young women from high schools around the Greater Wellington Region took part.
Founded in 2017 by Rotary Hutt City and Hutt City Council, IYM’s goal is to expose young women in Year 11 and 12 to career and research opportunities available in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and high-tech manufacturing).
IYM seeks to encourage diversity in New Zealand’s science and technology industry by inspiring a new generation of innovators and industry leaders. 
When Covid-19 arrived last year, it changed everything for IYM. IYM was unable to run its normal residential programmes and in response, IYM Online was born.
Delivered virtually via Zoom and Google Classroom, the programme was hugely successful demonstrating there was a strong demand for an accessible online programme. This year, IYM Online with Chorus - 2021 was held in the April school holidays and 100 young women from all over New Zealand participated. 
IYM Residential 2021 was held in the July school holidays and 39 young women from high schools from the Greater Wellington Region took part.
On both programmes, participants participated in:
- Tours of laboratories and other spaces in universities, Crown Research Institutes and    businesses.
- Interactive sessions where researchers and innovators showcased their research and work.
- Inspiring careers sessions led by women working in STEMM.
- Team-building and networking sessions.
- An Innovation Challenge where participants worked in teams led by industry expert mentors. 
IYM’s programmes are making an impact and its 2020 survey of 2017, 2018 and 2019 IYM graduates showed 80% of those who had left high school were studying or working in science and technology. Of the graduates who were still at high school, 74% plan to pursue STEMM after they finish and 22% have yet to make a decision.

IYM’s alumnae have also gone on to achieve incredible things. 2017 alumna Sophie Handford was voted joint Wellingtonian of the Year winner in 2019 for bringing the School Strike 4 Climate movement to New Zealand, and is now Paekākāriki - Raumati Ward Councillor on the Kāpiti Coast District Council. Sophie also participated in both of this year’s programmes.

Janis Baker, another 2017 alumna, is now in her third year of facilitating IYM’s programmes. Janis is also completing an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering with Trustpower while volunteering for Fire and Emergency New Zealand where she also has a leadership role. 

Rotary Hutt City is still very much a part of IYM with dedicated Rotarians donating countless hours of their time and energy fundraising and staffing IYM. Without Rotary Hutt City’s vision and ongoing commitment, and the support of other rotary clubs and organisations through sponsorship, IYM simply wouldn’t be possible. With these dedicated supporters, IYM is excited about the future and making an impact on more young wāhine around New Zealand. 
" I have gained so much knowledge from this course and so much confidence. I better understand who I am as a person and have a better and much clearer picture of what I want to do with my life. I know my WHY... I have made so many new friends and met so many new people. My eyes have been opened to what the future and my life COULD be, not just what I WISH/WANT it to be. The reality is I can make a change in this world. I can make a difference and this course has given me the opportunity, the confidence and knowledge and connections to be able to do this.
Ariihia Morehu, Year 12, Paeroa College, IYM Online with Chorus - 2021 participant

“I’ve been reflecting on all the different things I enjoyed and the experiences that really challenged me during the programme. I met some really interesting people that I want to stay in touch with and a lot of industry leaders who are really inspiring. I gained real insight into how technical disciplines contribute to the world around us and to business in ways that hadn’t occurred to me before. There’s really nothing else around that could provide this – and on steroids! 

I want to convey to you how grateful I am. When I applied to partake in IYM it looked like an interesting and fun time. It was, but it was so much more than that as well. We got exposed to some terrific organizations and different people. I now have a better idea of how I can apply my love of technical disciplines in ways that can be good for society and be personally rewarding at the same time.

Veronica Cox, Year 12, Kāpiti College, IYM Residential 2021 participant