Mayanjali Bodla is determined to become a marine biologist.
She’s about to start seventh grade.
Bodla was one of 24 girls mentored by a team of female FBI special agents, intelligence analysts and assistant United States attorneys during the weeklong “G-Girl STEM Academy” that concluded Friday at the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana.
“They were very inspiring,” the Fountain Valley resident said. “Some of the stuff I have learned is applicable to marine biology.”
The Girl Scouts of Orange County and Discovery Cube staff organized the academy to introduce girls entering grades 6-8 to internet safety, cyber investigations and careers in science and criminal justice.
The FBI employees and attorneys donated their time, said Stephanie Christensen, executive assistant U.S. attorney for the state’s Central District. It took nearly a year for organizers to coordinate the camp.
Four squads of girls were tasked Friday with different parts of a mock investigation into a hacker who threatened to release revealing photos of a girl to her ninth-grade class unless she paid a ransom.
Giggles ensued when the junior investigators learned the photo was actually of a monkey wearing makeup and jewelry.
Girls explored the process of investigation, search warrants, social media intelligence and a digital forensic exam of the suspect’s laptop.
Ultimately, they were able to indict “Joe Badguy” after presenting their evidence to a mock grand jury — an audience of parents, camp counselors and mentors.
After the mock trials, FBI agents and Discovery Cube staff presented each girl with a G-Girl STEM Academy badge for her Girl Scout sash, an FBI challenge coin, an FBI Los Angeles patch and an official certificate for completing the academy.
Voviette Morgan, special agent in charge of the criminal division for the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, congratulated the academy graduates as she handed them their certificates.
“I want to take you back to the office with me,” she said.
Morgan added that it’s important for all girls to have confidence in pursuing higher education and careers.
“They’re our future workforce,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, it just opens their minds that they have other opportunities.”
Alivia Seard, a rising sixth-grader and Girl Scout from Seal Beach, said she liked learning from women who work in a male-dominated field.
“It was just really great to see what they do, and they weren’t worried about the small percentage of women,” she said. “They just want to get their work done the best they can.”
Daniel Langhorne is a contributor to Times Community News.