Rachel Johnson ’20 spent last summer interning at Girls Rock Math, helping teach young girls how to do geometry, how to be confident, and the value of supportive community.
The internship, which was part of Puget Sound’s Reflective Immersive Sophomore Experience (RISE) program, was so impactful—and so much fun—that Rachel is headed back to the camp again this summer. This time as a site director.
Girls Rock Math is a Seattle-based nonprofit that offers camps and workshops designed to empower girls in first through sixth grades to feel confident in math. “We combine math, art, and games into a summer camp to promote female empowerment through STEM activities,” Rachel explains. “The ultimate goal is to narrow the gender gap in STEM education and STEM fields—one girl at a time.”
For Rachel, a highlight of every week of camp is the time intentionally set aside for staff members and camp counselors to lead conversations about real-life equity issues facing girls and women working and studying in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
“I remember a conversation we had last summer with second and third graders about pay equity,” Rachel says. “We asked them, if they were being paid $8 to wash a car, but found out that their brother was being paid $10 to wash the same car, how that might make them feel?
“I was really impressed by the way the camp challenges the campers in that sense, introducing them to these sorts of complex issues that I certainly wasn't talking about as a second grader.”
As the site director of Girls Rock Math’s Phinney Ridge location, Rachel will spend this summer supervising the high school students who work as teaching counselors and overseeing the location’s expansion.
An exercise science major with plans to apply to occupational therapy graduate schools this winter, Rachel considered other summer opportunities that might align more with her graduate school plans. However, she says she couldn’t pass up spending a second summer with Girls Rock Math.
“I thought about all the fun I had last summer, how much I enjoyed working with the kids, and how every day I left feeling proud of the work I had done that day,” Rachel says. “I just couldn’t turn it down.”
Rachel, who grew up in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, embraces opportunities to learn from her work experiences; in fact, she seeks them out. In addition to her role at Girls Rock Math, she’ll spend the summer working as a hostess at a Tuscan-Italian restaurant near the camp. This fall, she will serve as president of Puget Sound’s Peer Allies support group and continue working as a campus visit host for the Office of Admission and as an anatomy lab assistant.
Rachel says that all of her summer and school year activities reflect her passions and interests, and that she sees them all as connected. “Puget Sound has taught me to have better and more meaningful conversations,” she explains.
“I’ve learned as a student how to thoughtfully question what’s around me and bring my own ideas to the table with what I’m learning and engaging with. No matter where I am, I’m trying my best to listen; to have meaningful and challenging conversations; to look at things from different points of view and from all angles; and to see if I can help solve problems.”