Zaina Hweij, Florence Liang, and Sophie Zhang say their passion for STEM led to a mentorship program that has gone international
They were hooked on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at an early age.
Well, they are still young, incoming sophomores at Camas High School.
But their vision for STEM education shows a maturity beyond their years.
They live for learning. They treasure teachers. So much so, they have become teachers, too.
Zaina Hweij, Sophie Zhang, and Florence Liang have organized dozens of like-minded high school scholars from all over the country in an effort to mentor younger students in STEM studies.
The three co-founded STEM Scholars, a nonprofit organization that connects talented high school students with K-through-8th-grade students to help them study.
The cost? Oh, it is free.
“Our services are free. No catches,” notes the website, which can be found at: https://stem-scholars.vercel.app/
“As a nonprofit, we believe quality education shouldn’t have to come with any price tag.”
Mentors can teach in two ways, with video recordings of lectures or via live Zoom lessons.
Students can study at their own pace. They can find live lessons or pick from a prerecorded video. The site is designed for students to find what works best for them.
“The subjects we teach are subjects that students request,” Liang said. “We adapt our lessons to what students want to learn.”
The STEM Scholars site is for advanced students or beginners.
Another benefit to the site is that no one needs to study alone. Experts are just a click away to make it easier to learn.
“We hope we can keep expanding and helping more people,” Hweij said. “STEM Scholars is a great way for high school students to strengthen their knowledge and increase their teaching experience, and for (younger) students to learn from a vast audience.”
STEM Scholars already has students signed up from places such as Canada and South Africa, as well as all over the United States.
The concept came out of a club at Camas High School, Scientific Debate and Awareness. There are more than 100 students in that club, and one day, they started talking about focusing on mentoring.
From there, Hweij, Zhang, and Liang started networking. They found another nonprofit, Hack +, and put out the word that they were seeking high school students to volunteer. STEM Scholars also got certified by the President’s Volunteer Service Award, meaning all mentors can count their volunteer hours toward that prestigious award.
“STEM is a field that really inspires me,” Zhang said. “Every time I learn about a new breakthrough in science, it really just inspires.”
She added that she loves “A-Ha” moments.
“I never realized this was connected to this,” she explained. “There are a lot of things that fascinate me. I want to take part in this movement.”
“To me, STEM is a way to solve problems,” Hweij said.
More students excelling in STEM studies could improve the world.
“STEM is about students coming up with new ideas on how to solve problems,” Liang said.
All three said they had great science teachers when they were younger. The Science Olympiad made science fun. So did teachers who wanted to make an impact.
“STEM is a lifelong journey of learning,” Liang said, noting her teachers made sure she and her fellow students were always excited to come to class.
The STEM Scholars site is designed to bring that same passion. Students can go deeper into research. Or, for students falling behind, STEM Scholars is a way for students to catch up with their studies.
Students helping students.
STEM Scholars is a mentorship program that started in Camas and has gone international. For more information and a video, go to https://stem-scholars.vercel.app/.
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