Learning how Data can Create Change

Women’s History Month is a time when we honor women from different generations, different races, different backgrounds. Some were a catalyst for change. Some broke barriers. Some helped pave the way for future generations. But they all made history in some way.

Inside the halls of Grace M. James Academy of Excellence in west Louisville, young girls are striving to write their own page in history.

Grace James academy students

“We want the kids to see what opportunities are out there. We really dig into that “you can’t be what you can’t see” aspect. We really want to help them explore what’s out there, see things they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise, and help them understand that they have skills and attributes that would make them really great in a career they would not have known about,” explained Grace James Explore Coach Alyssa Stoepfel.

Stoepfel came up with the idea for ninth graders on the data science track to take real information from a real company and create their own action plan of how to use the data to create change. She reached out to Louisville Water because of the good relationship it has with the all-girls school. Community Relations Specialist Barbara Crow and Education & Outreach Specialist Heather Hill compiled survey results collected from customers about their experience with the drinking water utility. Then it was time for the students to get to work.

Grace James student“I knew it was going to take a lot of brain power,” Caleigh Thomas shared. She worked solo on her project. Having lived in different parts of Louisville, she felt that where you live can impact your experience and surveys should reflect that with specific questions.

“You never really know what a zip code needs unless you are asking what they need. That’s where the feedback forms come into play,” Thomas said. “Basically, giving a little more specific feedback forms to specific zip codes will better help the zip code and the relationship they have with Louisville Water Company.”

Crow listened intently as groups presented their takeaways from the research they were given and how it could be used in the future.

Grace James students with LouWater employee“It was fun to watch the students come to many of the same conclusions regarding our education and outreach initiatives. One surprise though was the idea of a “secret shopper”. They suggested planting some fake customers at our community events to get a little stealth feedback. It’s an innovative idea and a little scary too!” she said.

For Stoepfel, she could see the wheels turning as the class navigated choices based on the information they received.

“I think they really got to see how data is not just numbers. A lot of times with our kids, they see data in the sense of a word problem in math or maybe data in terms of a lab assignment in science class. They haven’t gotten to see the application of data and numbers and how it can be used in the world of business.”

Thomas agreed, saying, “How you apply is what’s most important and what you apply it to. When looking at your (Louisville Water) data, you all were very receptive.” She added that, “When we (our class) analyzed the data, there were a lot of school events, children’s events which we like and we enjoy, but the adults are the ones paying the bills so they should know a little bit more about what’s going on throughout the company.”

Grace James studentsIt was neat to see the similar and different approaches each group took on the project. The common denominator was everyone expanded their skill set and learned the importance of evaluating data fully to make an informed decision.

“This is something that I enjoy learning, so I wouldn’t mind looking into data analysis (for a career),” Thomas shared.

To that, Louisville Water says, shoot for the stars, Caleigh!