Lindsey Vonn's New Goal Is Helping Girls Learn STEM: 'I Want to Help on a Personal Level'
Lindsey Vonn speaks with PEOPLE about one of the things she is focusing on now that she has put down her skis: helping girls get involved in technology
While champion skier Lindsey Vonn is no longer hitting the slopes professionally after announcing her retirement earlier this year, she has something new she is championing.
The former alpine ski racer is now helping young girls become more involved in STEM education through the Lindsey Vonn Foundation. Vonn’s organization recently donated full scholarships to 22 girls to attend a camp with iD Tech, which offers week-long summertime STEM classes for children. Alexa Café is the organization’s camp just for girls.
“At tech companies, it’s a heavily male-dominated occupation and we really want to do things for girls and young kids where there’s a gap,” Vonn, 34, tells PEOPLE. “I’ve always been passionate about my foundation and now that I’m retired I have — maybe not as much time as I had expected — but I still have more time now than I did before. And for me, I want to be involved in every camp.”
“It’s not just my name, it’s me and I want to be involved with these kids and I want to help them on a personal level,” she adds.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, and this is a number Vonn would like to see grow in the coming years.
The former Olympian appeared at Caltech University on July 17 to visit one of the scholarships recipients, who developed an app to help people get affordable healthcare, inspired by her own family’s struggles.
“It was incredible to meet her, and see what she’s been working on, and her dreams and aspirations,” Vonn says. “She’s very much an inspiration to others as well, she’s someone that I’m really proud to have her represent our foundation.”
“They’re all creating different objects that they’re printing out on the 3D printer,” Vonn says of the camp. “We watched some kids building computers, which is just insane to me. And I can’t even begin to understand code, let alone how to build a computer.”
Watching these young girls learn things was an amazing experience for Vonn — who has won three Olympic medals and is considered one of the best athletes of all time.
“I mean, it’s literally night and day. When I grew up, the only technology that I had was one of those tall Mac computers and I was doing the Oregon Trail,” she recalls. “Oregon Trail and Mario Teaches Typing. That was my childhood of tech, and so needless to say, it’s not the same as it was.”
“We want to make sure that every girl and every kid is covered on every level,” she adds of the foundation’s goal with iD Tech. “And just really want to allow them to have the tools to be able to succeed in their life and with their goals and dreams because everyone has a different mission in life and we want to help empower every person’s mission.”
After announcing her retirement in February due to extensive knee injuries, Vonn has stayed busy finishing her memoir, which will be released this spring, and an HBO documentary set to air in November.
Now, she and her sweetheart, NHL star P.K. Subban, will be gearing up to make a move to New Jersey now that he’s joining the Devils next season.
“I kind of struggled at the beginning, having too much time, so then I over-booked my schedule and I had no time,” Vonn says. “So, I’m just working on a balance, and I love spending time with him in his off-season. We’re moving to Jersey soon, so that’s going to be exciting. It is different, life is totally different, but I love it.”
And while she may not be training for the slopes anymore, Subban says Vonn is still a force to be reckoned with.
“I have to admit, and it pains me to say this,” Subban tells PEOPLE, “but I actually think that if I trained with her a month straight on the ice, every day, that she could play pick-up Men’s League. That is legit.”