New Mexico Girl Scout Marcela has a passion for math and wanted to make sure her peers—especially female students—developed one too.
“Foundational math matters no matter what one does in life,” says Marcela. “Success in this world often relates to a working understanding of numbers, even if that success is simply doing well enough on standardized testing to get into a school where those scores will not matter after having gotten in. The problem-solving skills associated with math also help in fields that do not relate to math at all.”
When Marcela realized the math department at her high school had high turnover rates and teachers were often given large classes with little time for personalized attention, she decided to step in and do something about it.
“I started by meeting with administration to go over program goals and what math classes they thought needed the most focus,” she says. “We agreed to prioritize Algebra I and Geometry, as those classes are [for] majority freshmen and sophomores. Standardized testing also focuses on those particular areas of math the most. After that, the administration gave me the district guidelines on parental permission for tutoring and what I should have my tutors do when communicating with students.”
Marcela then sent out a recruitment email to juniors and seniors—students who would have completed Algebra I and Geometry—to apply to be peer tutors. Those interested completed a self-diagnostic survey online, created and reviewed by Marcela, before officially becoming a tutor.
Then it was time to advertise to students. Marcela created flyers to invite freshmen and sophomores needing a little extra help in these courses to join her tutoring program. As students did, she paired them with tutors, and the program was off and running for the school year. “The beauty of the program came from the fact that tutors and students agreed on times and dates that work for the both of them,” says Marcela.
She was particularly proud of the fact that students identifying as female were largely served by her project—something that wasn’t part of the original project scope but happened organically.
“Math issues disproportionately affect young girls and women,” she says. “Much like discrimination in other areas of STEM, girls not knowing math hurts them and the world at large. Coincidentally, all my tutors identified as women and demonstrated to the girls who got tutoring that they, too, could excel at those subjects. Although not the intention of my project, this all-women tutor team provided an additional benefit to the community we served.”
Another unexpected aspect of the project Marcela is proud of? That her tutoring program is now formalized at her school, after concluding the project by writing a manual.
“At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I learned that my school had decided to make my program a part of the official class schedule,” Marcela recalls. “They had also decided that they might offer the option of paying tutors who may want financial compensation instead of a volunteer opportunity. I had known that the school would continue the program in some way, likely modified for a return to in-person school, but this sent me over the moon.”
Marcela’s passion for teaching others, as demonstrated by her Gold Award project, is one that is following her into her chosen career path. Currently, she is earning a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism with a focus on strategic communication. She then plans to attend law school.
“After completing my Gold Award, I find writing proposals and emailing authorities no longer makes me
feel anxious,” she says. “My communication style on the whole has become more professional and straightforward. The skills I have gained also help me to help other people, which is what I consider to be my life’s work. Every piece of knowledge I gained while completing my Gold Award directly serves that degree and by extension the rest of my life including my career.”
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