KEYs (Keys to Empowering Youth) was founded at MIT in 1993 to provide mentors to middle-school girls and to show them hands-on aspects of science and engineering that they might not be exposed to in the classroom. Once a PSC program that now is student-run through the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), KEYs provides hands-on science activities and engineering challenges, tours of MIT laboratories, and opportunities to interface with MIT students as mentors. As a result of the program’s success at MIT, KEYs has been adopted at other universities throughout the country.
Why did you decide to start KEYs?
As a grad student at MIT, I was one of the only women in my research lab and classes, and it finally occurred to me to ask, "why?" My love of science and technology had blinded me to our continuing national crisis of attracting students (particularly girls) to STEM fields. The research at the time suggested that middle school was one of the times that girls seemed to move away from math and science, and so KEYs was born.
What impact has KEYs achieved?
Thousands of girls have now gone through the KEYs programs at several different universities, primarily at MIT and the University of Maryland, College Park. No matter what career they choose in the future, we believe that their eyes were opened to the possibilities of STEM fields.
Cori Lathan PhD ’94
What is SWE’s role with KEYs?
KEYs has been run by MIT's Society of Women Engineers chapter for the past couple of years. We've been creating a strong following in the Cambridge/Boston community, and are in the process of expanding the number of sessions each semester so that more girls can participate.
How has this work had a personal impact on you?
Sometimes, the workload of MIT makes me lose my perspective in terms of what I'm learning and why I'm doing the work here. Igniting interest in middle school girls reignites my own passion for science and engineering.
Sarah Weiss ’14