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Emily Park: Supporting TLA and Personalized Education

by Hali Larkins on June 23 2021

COVID-19 brought about many unanticipated disruptions and forced us to find new ways of engaging, connecting, learning, and supporting one another. This was especially true for high school seniors whose final year looked nothing like they had expected. One California senior, Emily Park, found time during this ambiguous and demanding season to support a cause and organization that she cared deeply about: The Learning Accelerator. Last year, Park set up a campaign on GoFundMe.com to raise awareness of and drive donations to support the work of TLA. We reached out to learn more about her background and connection to education, and her story is just as inspiring as it is impressive. We are deeply grateful for her generous support. Thank you, Emily!

Emily Park, a 2021 graduate of Oak Grove High School in San Jose, was inspired to support TLA through her journey of having engineered a personalized educational experience to support her own career aspirations in computer science. Her interest started with her experience as an intern at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Park was one of 15 interns, and during her experience she “realized that all of her NASA advisors, project managers, coordinators, and outreach leaders were, in fact, female. Watching female researchers lead this program in an otherwise male-dominated industry gave [her] the courage to make [her] own marks as an independent, strong, and determined scientist.” This experience motivated her to rally some of her friends and start an organization to share their knowledge and inspire other girls to explore STEM, one of the first STEM organizations for women at her school. Park found herself at the intersection of wanting to learn and understand more about the field of computer science and not having immediate access to the courses to guide her learning.

In her search for more learning experiences to support her quest, she discovered TLA through an online website that highlighted organizations that focused on personalized and equitable education. Such resources proved to be very beneficial as Park highlighted that her school, at the time, had limited resources to support students who were interested in computer science.

With the help of her teachers and community members, Park built a personalized experience that aligned with her long-term learning goals and educational needs. She was able to find and enroll in the Advanced Science Research Cohort and engage in relevant research apprenticeships with the U.S. Army Research Office. This eventually led her to get creative in identifying opportunities to apply the computer science information that she was learning to real-world experiences. She is a founding member of an organization called Innexgo LLC, which is a company that works to resolve truancy challenges in schools. The app tracks students’ attendance and aims to collect more information about students’ locations to provide better, personalized data to school leaders. At this time, the device is being implemented across the East Side Union High School District in San Jose, and Park and her team are planning to work with neighboring districts to introduce the school operations.

Donations through music

Emily Park has played the cello since fifth grade, and she and her teacher decided that a benefit concert would be a great opportunity to share her skills and talents with her community while making an impact. Park began rehearsing selections during the summer of 2020, but the initial vision for the concert was an in-person experience where friends and family members would be invited. However, due to safety restrictions related to COVID-19, Emily faced several challenges to executing the concert in person and decided to host a virtual concert and donation drive via GoFundMe, through which she raised approximately $2,000 in support of TLA.

With the concert and her senior year behind her, Emily is heading into her freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley where she plans to double major in Computer Science & Data Science. Before UC Berkeley, Park will spend her summer engaging in a variety of research experiences focusing on computer vision, deep learning, and gender-based design in healthcare technology as well as an Artificial Intelligence Internship at IPMD, Inc., a biotechnology company that develops solutions to eliminate chronic and mental diseases. She wants people to know the value of “the ideas that TLA is pushing, including the importance of education, personalized learning, and equitable learning environments.” Emily shares that, “Through my journey, I have realized that an individual’s ‘voice’ cannot be found — it can only be built by traversing through experiences and moments that create who we are. Being in an equitable learning environment and having a better, personalized education empowers and pushes us to discover who we truly are, just like how I am striving to become a more defined Emily.”

About the Author

Hali Larkins is an intern on the TLA team, supporting our External Relations and programmatic work, as well as a graduate student in the field of education.