Sophomore creates math tournaments for low-income family students

Grace Zhou

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The moment sophomore Emily Su walked into the engineering summer program which her two engineer parents had signed her up for, she noticed one thing. Boys. Everyone was a boy.

“I walked in and every single student, and every single TA, and every single teacher was a boy,” Su said. “So when I went home, I asked my parents if they signed me up for an all boys summer camp.”

This memory from the summer before third grade has been ingrained in Su’s mind ever since. When brainstorming for her Girl Scout Gold Award, an award Girl Scouts receive by creating a sustainable project which can benefit the entire community, this same memory popped up in her head again. With the lingering memory of that engineering camp, Su decided that she wanted her project to be STEM related, as she wants to get more people involved in these fields.

Su’s recently created non-profit and Gold Award, Silicon Valley Math Circle, is targeted toward providing underprivileged students from low-income families with a chance to foster interest in STEM related fields in a non-classroom and applicable setting. This organization looks to host math tournaments, and Su plans for the first tournament to be for girls only, a decision spurred by that same summer memory.

“I feel like when you can just teach something straight out of a textbook, it’s not as interesting as if you can compete in it, or have fun while you’re doing it,” Su said. “And I feel like if kids have that opportunity, they might see that in a different light.”

Sophomore Emily Su

Sophomore Emily Su

Along the way, Su received quite a bit of help from others, especially her Girl Scout directors, who really challenged her and questioned the sustainability of the project. These directors helped Su to develop her idea and refine all aspects to it. One of these directors from the Girl Scout Office who helped Su was Sue Chen.

Su states that Chen is very good at planning and organizing events, so she knows what works and what doesn’t work. Chen helped review Su’s project, and also gave her advice on many things such as the best way to conduct the tournaments and what venues would be available on short notice, but for the most part, she says that Su had developed the majority of the project by herself.

The one worry Chen does have about SV Math Circle is who they’re targeting. She states that it might be hard to get the underprivileged students to participate in these tournaments.

“For the underprivileged kids, I think it will be hard to get them interested in this because the family culture may not be very familiar with what can be done with math,” Chen said. “We need to provide them better understanding as to why they should get into STEM, because it can apply to a lot of things in life, and give them more choices in the future.”

SV Math Circle has challenged Emily in many different ways, and forced her to think out of the box, and grow as both a person and a leader. In the future, she hopes to make SV Math Circle a club on campus and expand it to other schools as well, so more people can work together toward helping the underprivileged students.

“I really want to empower underprivileged students,” Su said, “And encourage them to pursue what they enjoy through a different venue.”