Sisters Doing It for Themselves
Construction is a predominantly male field, but not if the Goldsteen sisters have anything to say about it. In 2022, the Bethesda residents—Sami, 17, Kenzie, 15, and Emmie, 13—founded Buildgirls, a nonprofit educating high school girls about women in architecture, construction and engineering, or ACE.
The idea came during COVID, when students worked remotely and the sisters used their father’s desk at home for schoolwork. Their dad, who works with infrastructure companies, had many presentations from businesses across the industry sitting on his desk. One day, Sami noticed all his team slides had one thing in common—they were all pictures of men.
“I was able to learn firsthand that women only represent less than 10% of the entire ACE fields,” says Sami, who goes to Holton-Arms School in Bethesda (her younger sisters attend Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.). “They make up less than 2% of those leadership roles.”
So the sisters started their female-centric organization to offer a variety of opportunities at the high school level. Buildgirls now has more than 250 members in 18 states and three countries. The Build-
girls team records and posts video and audio interviews on buildgirls.org, highlighting accomplished women in ACE professions.
The group also holds “discovery events,” putting members face-to-face with leaders in the field. The Goldsteen girls are all considering careers in an ACE field, and Buildgirls offers excellent chances for all of its members to make inroads.
“There are opportunities if you want them,” says Buildgirls member Lila Rosenberg, 17. “It’s really important to be spreading this information.”
ACE executives emphasize the necessity of the organization. “It absolutely needs to be done,” says Susan Hecker, an executive vice president at Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services and a Buildgirls advisory board member. “To see what Buildgirls is doing, starting at a younger age, it’s so important—I think what they’ve accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary.”
The Teen Making a Splash
Swimmer Toby Barnett, 18, stroked his way into the record books this past school year, completing his quest to break all 11 Rockville High School swimming records. A swimmer since age 8, Barnett embarked on that journey during his freshman year but says he never really thought it was possible. His high school and swim club coaches, though, saw potential.
“I said, ‘I basically want to see you do things in the pool training-wise that I’ve never seen anybody do,’ ” says Dave Kraft, a coach for the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club, for which Barnett swims. “He became a top eight finisher at Junior Nationals in all four strokes, which is really rare.”
It was full steam ahead during Barnett’s senior year at Rockville High School, and the dynamo sealed the deal by breaking the five remaining Rams records that he hadn’t yet conquered. But he didn’t stop shattering high school records. At the Maryland State Swimming Championships in February, Barnett added three more state titles to the two he already holds. After setting the state record in the 200 IM (individual medley) during his junior year, Barnett set the 500-yard freestyle record during his senior year. Barnett’s next goal is swimming at the Olympic trials level, Kraft says, and this summer he will continue training in hopes of making the cut.
Now preparing to begin his freshman year at Indiana University on a swimming and academic scholarship, Barnett says the journey for him is the destination.
“I’m enjoying swim right now, and I don’t want to lose the passion I have for the sport,” Barnett says. “The biggest thing is just to make sure I’m enjoying it.”
Nimay Sharma and Parim Shah, sixth graders at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Germantown, won the $5,000 grand prize in C-SPAN’s 2023 StudentCam documentary competition. They beat out almost 3,000 other students—representing 40 states, the District of Columbia, Kenya and the United Arab Emirates—with their six-minute documentary, Where’s My Data? Data Privacy and its Real World Impact. For the competition, students were tasked with creating a documentary themed, “If you were a newly elected member of Congress, which issue would be your first priority and why?”
“Privacy issues are sort of universal, and they impact so many different domains, like health care, social media, elections,” Parim says. “We wanted to dive into that because there’s so many different interests that we could pursue with data privacy.”
The contest was announced last September in their humanities class at school. Their teacher, James Dempsey, assigned students the project for their class, and gave them the option to enter the C-SPAN contest if they wanted.
“We did research, and then we had to film it,” Nimay says.
“We spent a lot of time on scripting—we wanted to make that the best possible,” Parim adds. “And then editing probably took the most effort and time.”
The students’ video includes interviews with Democratic California Rep. Sara Jacobs, Washington Post tech policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski, and Vox senior tech reporter Sara Morrison, who embraced participating in the video.
“I’m happy they won but not surprised,” Morrison says. “They made a great case for why digital privacy is important and why we should care about it—I’m honored they included me in their video.”
This story appears in the July/August issue of Bethesda Magazine.