After hearing an NPR news story on Girl Security, an organization seeking to close the gender gap in the male-dominated space of national security, senior Carolina Permuy pressed "contact" on their website to learn more about their work. Their founder, Lauren Bean Buitta, responded and began a back-and-forth resulting in the organization's first DC event last spring, before Covid-19.
With more time on her hands last spring and summer (a silver lining of the pandemic), Carolina was able to immerse herself in all things national security, a broad umbrella encompassing much more than she originally thought. "I thought it was army, weapons, etc. It's about personal security and cyberspace. It's so important today because everything is online," said Carolina.
An avid participant in Model UN and an advocate for human rights, Carolina found her interests widen as she learned more about the topic of national security. "[The CEO] took my email as a step toward having programming in DC. I was involved because I helped them come here," she said.
An event at the Finnish Embassy last year was covered by PBS News Hour recently (see the Visitation uniforms at the 4:02 mark!). Principal Mary Kate Blaine accompanied the students. Sadly, that was the group's last in-person event with Girl Security before Covid-19 hit.
"Covid helped me get more involved [with Girl Security] because the events were all online," said Carolina, noting she had moderated an event with Georgetown professor Dr. Elizabeth Stanley, who has written books on resilience. When Girl Security launched their scholars program, she knew she wanted to apply.
Alongside seven other young women - of which only three, including Carolina, are high school students - she embarked on a six-month research project. "I was interested in the U.S. use of torture at Guantanamo Bay," said Carolina. Her mentor assigned through Girl Security, Department of Homeland Security regional prevention coordinator Beth Windisch, helped her expand that topic to consider the government's ethical decision-making post-9-11. "We ended up getting close because I went to her for everything. I always had questions."
Carolina heard from speakers from NATO and the CIA; participated in an exercise in cyber hacking; interviewed someone in the Army and a former Governor who negotiates with dictators; and more. She recently presented her research at the Halifax International Security Forum and will finally produce a podcast next month to be featured on CSIS.
"I think I've gained the ability to ask tough questions. That's what my project was about," said Carolina. She noted, "I don't think before I had such confidence to speak to such important people."
Originally intimidated by the college students who were scholars alongside her, Carolina said, "I was able to make myself an equal among them." She values the friendships she made during the experience and hopes she can one day serve as a role model to younger girls involved in Girl Security as well.
Carolina ended the interview by saying, "Shoutout to Mr. Farquhar - he got me interested in American history - and Mrs. Hamilton and Ms. Blaine."