Long-time resident Andrea Solka has spent much her time giving back to the community she calls home. Solka co-leads the Girls Inspired Greatly About the World of Technology (GIGAWOT) summer camp and encourages young girls to get involved with the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. In addition, she’s a member of the Coppell Women’s Club and the co-founder of Lone Star Labrador Retriever Rescue. Solka also recently served on the first cohort of the city’s Allies and Communities initiative.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Dallas. The only time I’ve lived away from the Dallas area was during my undergrad studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
What are you passionate about?
My family and volunteering especially in the areas of animal rescue, assisting those who are homeless and encouraging young students (especially girls) to consider a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
What led you to start a career in science and technology?
I loved math and during my senior year of high school, I took a computer science class taught by my high school calculus teacher. I fell in love with programming and decided to major in computer science. I started my career as a mainframe programmer at IBM and moved into various roles in a development lab before gaining my MBA at SMU and moving into marketing for the latter part of my career.
In your opinion, why is it important for girls to learn about technology?
Because technology is pervasive across all aspects of life – not just in the computers and cellphones we use in our everyday lives. Our future in the USA and the world is dependent on our ability to educate and inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and computer programmers. Most importantly, I believe having more women in technology fields brings a diversity of thought which leads to greater innovation.
What do you enjoy about leading the GIGAWOT camp?
I enjoy showing girls that math and science can be fun and rewarding. I was not exposed to science at a young age, and I was never shown the fun in it so this is my opportunity to show young women that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is interesting and can be a rewarding career both financially and in terms of allowing women to give back to their community. I get pleasure seeing a spark in a young girl’s eye as she realizes STEM is exciting. I remember years ago running into a young lady who had attended GIGAWOT camp and she told me she was studying biomedical engineering and that our camp was one of the instigators of her interest in engineering!
What got you started in fostering dogs?
When we first built our house in Coppell, my husband and I both wanted a dog. My husband Steven wanted a dog to run with, so I started researching large breeds and chose labrador retrievers due to the breed being a great dog for families as at the time I was also pregnant with our first son. My first lab Cleo was not from an official rescue group, but I rescued her in Coppell from some people wanting to get rid of a 6-month-old, poorly cared for black lab. After she passed away suddenly at age 10, I got involved with a local rescue and adopted our second lab Augie. Two other women and I had some differences in philosophy at the time so we started Lone Star Labrador Retriever Rescue in 2004. There are so many dogs (and cats) that are euthanized each year in Dallas-Fort Worth, I started the rescue and fostering to help save pets’ lives.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Since I retired, I joined the Coppell Women’s Club and participate in the walking group and play Mah Jong. I’m trying to get back to working out at The Core too. I also love to read books and am in a local book club. But honestly most of my free time is spent volunteering with various organizations in Coppell and in the Dallas area.
What do you enjoy about living in Coppell?
The small town feel. I often feel like the residents of Coppell embody the saying of “it takes a village” and we’re here for each other in both good and bad times. I enjoyed raising my two sons in Coppell and was very pleased with Coppell ISD, and I appreciate our great facilities including the park system, The Core and the Senior Center just to name a few.
What does giving back mean to you?
I believe in “Tikkun Olam,” which means “repair of the world" and is a concept in Judaism to behave and act constructively and beneficially. I feel giving back is my small part of repairing our world.
What did you learn from your involvement in Allies in Communities?
I learned about different cultures and religions of my peers in the first cohort of the Allies in Communities. I also had the opportunity to get to know many of the city staff and am so glad the city has embraced a culture of respect for diversity. I encourage anyone with interest to apply for the second cohort.