PKG Social Impact Internships: Rachel Zheng (’24)

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel, and I am a current freshman majoring in math and computer science. This past spring, I have had the privilege of working at Girls’ Angle, a math club for girls in the Cambridge-Boston area. Girls’ Angle is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting and inspiring young women to study mathematics. This club is unique from other math clubs; Girls’ Angle mentors employ a comprehensive approach to guiding students in math. Mentors tailor their guidance to each girl’s specific needs and interests. There is no set curriculum, but only a passion for igniting passion in math. 

The central social issue motivating my work is educational equity. My high school was in a small rural town in the deep south; the town has a 30% poverty rate and median household income of $36k. Another town in the same state has a 3% poverty rate and median household income of $114k. I have firsthand witnessed the difference in quality of education – the teachers, the textbooks, or the number of field trips provided for the students. Every student deserves a quality education, regardless of where they are located and what racial, social, or economic background they have. As a WOC in STEM, having once been discouraged to pursue my interests, my driving force is educational equity. 

The field of mathematics is dominated by men. Girls’ Angle works on educational equity by fostering and nurturing girls’ interests in mathematics and inspiring them to pursue math. Whether the student loves math or has math anxiety, all girls in grades 5-12 are welcome with open arms in Girls’ Angle. Every session, mentors pair up with 1-4 students and discuss various topics, such as music and math, cryptarithms, and higher dimensional tic tac toe, all of which are proposed by the students themselves. We work to provide an invigorating and creative atmosphere, confronting obstacles with optimism and encouragement. 

The girls that I worked with absolutely love math. Although they can be shy at first, the girls gradually become very open with their ideas. I learned a new style of teaching: not by going off a curriculum, but by listening to their interests and responding accordingly. This style allows for mentors to really cater topics to what the girls desire to learn. This is a major drawback to the current K-12 education system, where teachers are handed curriculums and topics that the students must learn, causing the students to feel that the learning is “forced,” instead of inspired. Working with this organization gives me much hope for the future generation of female scholars in STEM. 

Girls’ Angle works to combat the educational equity issue in many fashions, from the mentoring style to the content to the target audience. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to mentor at Girls’ Angle, and I intend on continuing being a mentor there during these upcoming three years at MIT. The impact this nonprofit makes on the girls is immeasurable. They impress me every day. Thank you to PKG for showing me this hidden gem.

Tags: K-12 Education, Social Impact Internships, Social Impact Internships Spring 2021

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