Last year, I created a community service program, SHINE, with the aid of the MIT Public Service Center. SHINE is a free eight-week program for seventh-grade girls that combines formal dance classes with a tailored math curriculum. Its overarching goal is establishing both a lifelong love of mathematics and creative expression in its students; we believe that dance instills both perseverance and self-confidence in these girls, and that both of these qualities allow them to succeed in their math classes. While there have been programs directed at girls who are already showing aptitude or interest in mathematics, SHINE's focus is uniquely aimed at girls who are currently struggling in their math classes and who may not ordinarily self-elect to seek help in math after school. Several female MIT students serve as mentors and teachers for these girls.
During the program, we were able to watch the girls break out of their shells and become more confident in their own ability to succeed in any endeavor. We heard teachers and parents alike tell us about how girls that would never speak up in class began participating, and how their grades improved. From our entrance and exit surveys we saw that 100 percent of the girls improved in both math grades and confidence levels. The girls improved on average 40 percent in their math scores, moving from an average grade of a C to an A, and they improved 46 percent on their confidence levels. Moreover, the girls each formed personal connections with their mentors from SHINE and looked to them as a source of support. One of the girls gave the following testimonial:
I love SHINE! It is simply magical there. I went into this program unconfident dancing with other girls I didn’t know and by the end, that totally changed! I made a lot of friends through dancing with them and talking to them about the math practice that was given us. The staff there are so great, giving their students hope in everything and they are happy to help all the time! This is a program I highly recommend to each and every girl.
I couldn't have anticipated how much SHINE would impact me, and inspire me to continue to share my love of mathematics with other young women. It quickly became the most fulfilling activity I engaged in during my time at MIT because I could see the girls grow in confidence and determination right before my eyes. I have always been passionate about getting the younger generation of women interested in mathematics, but never had a clear idea of the best way of accomplishing that goal. SHINE's unique program, combining math and dance in a way that is both rigorous and fun, has allowed me to reach girls who might have gotten lost in the system. SHINE's initial success has given me hope that it could one day become a national program that reaches hundreds of girls, who need to believe in their ability, and see that they too can shine.
Kirin Sinha ’14
Founder & Executive Director