In 8th grade after reading  I Am Malala, a spark was lit within me to make a difference in my community but I did not know how. The book left a lasting impression on me and changed the way I saw the world.

It wasn’t until the Spring of my Freshman year at Northgate High School when I fell into a deep conversation with my mom about the dire status of education of young women in underserved communities. Little did I know that was the beginning of something amazing. After feeling so inspired, I began researching various groups I could join in my area that focused solely on educating and empowering young girls but I was not pleased with what was available. I was very disappointed and discouraged but soon a wave of realization hit me: I could start my own program and tailor it to the needs of my community. I had a dozen ideas rushing through my head , but I was able to narrow it down: I wanted to focus on tutoring and mentoring underserved  girls in middle school, and prepare them for high school both academically and socially.  Even with this rough layout, it soon became clear to me I could not tackle this on my own. So, I texted my friend Ashley and asked if she would like to partake on this adventure with me. She, thankfully, obliged and within the first hour of brainstorming we were able to come up with the name for our program: G.O.A.L.S (Girls’ Optimal Academic Learning Society). As I mentioned, I wanted to pursue this program for middle school girls so, inevitably, the next step would be to contact a school. Without a doubt, I knew the school I wanted to implement this at was Oak Grove Middle School. I was aware of the challenges the school faced since it was in my school district and close to my home; the disparity was obvious to me each time I would go to the school for my basketball practice. Additionally my 6th grade math teacher Ms. Sechrist  (whom I credit for instilling in me the love for math) was now a Vice Principal at the school so in my eyes it was destined to be!

I drafted an email in May 2016 and by August the school had agreed to meet with us. At the meeting, we discussed specific plans for the club and Ms. Sechrist mentioned the underwhelming math scores from her school. This immediately gave the club a new direction, one focusing on math and science. Since the beginning of my academic life, math and science have always been my favorite and strongest subjects. Since the beginning, I wanted to incorporate STEM within the club and at the meeting we collectively decided to focus on math and science to ensure the young girls succeed and become confident in these fields since this is a crucial age where girls lose interest or become discouraged. I personally  remember when I was in middle school,  boys would try to undermine my ability in math and science. This extremely discouraged me, but I was lucky enough to have support from my peers and teachers but  I knew not everyone was as fortunate. Thus, it was clear to me that I needed to parallel the familial support I personally received for the young girls at Oak Grove Middle School and to prepare them high school and the obstacles they may face as girls interested in math and science.

We agreed to focus our academic tutoring in math and science and incorporate activities with the two as well as begin to introduce them to the world of technology. In addition, we solidified our plan to discuss critical social issues such as self esteem, peer pressure, and bullying. By the end of the meeting, we were prepared to begin G.O.A.L.S in the upcoming 2016-2017 school year, but we anticipated we would need one more mentor. I contacted another one of my creative and intelligent friends Ellora, and asked her to join, and she graciously accepted. Our first meeting was on October 4 with only 3 girls in attendance, we now have on the average 15-20 girls each week and have formed a great bond with all of them. We have many plans for this program, including guest speakers, field trips, coding, and impactful projects for the school. We cannot wait to further embark on this momentous journey and to be able to serve in other communities.

-Aava Farhadi

“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.” – Audre Lorde