August 17, 2019

Promoting Girls in Science and Space

Elisheva Gross, 18
High School: Harkham-GAON Academy
College: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Elisheva Gross has kept herself busy throughout high school by participating in extracurricular activities and volunteer programs, honing her leadership skills and combating stereotypes against female engineers. As a dual-enrollment student, she also took classes at Santa Monica College (SMC), expanding her social bubble and preparing herself for the rigor of college-level courses. 

“I’ve made quite a few friends in my classes [at SMC]. Going to Jewish school all my life, I’ve gotten to know a very specific community, and it’s nice to be able to see different types of people,” she told the Journal.

Gross, who lives in Westwood, was on her high school’s debate team and participated in Jewish mock trials. For the past five years, she has volunteered with Friendship Circle Los Angeles, a program that provides social, recreational, educational and Judaic experiences to Jewish children with special needs. 

Through the Friends at Home program, Gross was paired with a buddy who has special needs and played with her weekly at her house. Throughout the years, Gross has come to enjoy the personal one-on-one connection they have formed. 

“It’s been amazing to be a part of her life and to be a part of her journey,” Gross, who has received three fellowship awards for dedicating her time to Friendship Circle, said. 

In addition to Friendship Circle, she was involved with Girls Who Code and Women in Science and Engineering, and was the co-captain of the robotics team, where she hoped to influence other girls to join STEM.  

“I’ve always been fascinated by space. … I couldn’t think of anything more exciting that I want to dedicate my life to.”

“There is a stereotype that all engineers are males, and to be fair, it’s not far from the truth,” Gross said. “That’s why I’ve worked with these different robotics teams and Girls Who Code to help encourage other girls to follow me in the STEM field so we can support each other and break through this barrier together.” 

Gross hopes to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. “I’ve always been fascinated by space. It’s a giant unexplored, unknown destination that’s just full of mysteries and full of questions that beg to be answered,” she said. “I couldn’t think of anything more exciting that I want to dedicate my life to.” 

She plans to take a gap year in Israel through a program called Kivun, where she will be volunteering, traveling around Israel, and doing an internship.

“I’ve never been away from home longer than a month. I felt I really needed some more time to be able to mature … and [become] part of the world outside of my parents’ home,” Gross said.  

Gross will attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, majoring in aerospace engineering. As someone who has attended synagogue at Westwood Kehilla her whole life, the “wonderful and warm Jewish community” and the kosher food program at Illinois played a role in her college decision.

“Judaism to me is sort of the guideline to living my life,” she said. “I try to follow the Torah. Right now, I’ve been trying to work on davening at least every morning.”


Melissa Simon is a senior studying journalism at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Jewish Journal summer intern.


Keep on reading about our 2019 Outstanding Seniors here.