“I’ve proved,” Jiayu wrote in one of her essays, “that Girl Power exists.” And, to borrow a descriptor from mathematics, that proof has been elegant. She was an outstanding math student at her school in a small city in China, but she was not sent on to higher competitions even though she got the highest scores. In part, she said, this was because her family didn’t have the necessary connections, but it also reflected traditional gender attitudes in allocating limited STEM educational opportunities. Her family came to the United States when Jiayu was age 12, “I didn’t know English, but I knew numbers.” In learning her new language, “Diligence has never betrayed me.” Eventually her friends complimented her English, and asked her to teach them Chinese. “That made the thousands of hours I spent on memorizing vocabulary and analyzing the recordings of me speaking English worth it.” Jiayu was described by one of her Advanced Placement math teachers as “a school with a tradition of molding top scholars,” he said “her brilliance shines through,” noting that in her senior year she had perfect grades. Now she wants to become a role model for other girls. “In much of the world,” Jiayu wrote in an essay, “‘She’ is someone’s daughter or sister, and then ‘she’ becomes someone’s wife or mother after marriage. But nobody remembers her name. I’ll let the world remember me by my name as an engineer, not as somebody’s tag-along.”

Jiayu is grateful to Gia Koutsovasilis, her calculus teacher for the last two years. “Her passion for math and care for every student,” Jiayu wrote, “has fueled and strengthened my determination to pursue my career in the engineering field.”

Many thanks to New York Community Trust for sponsoring Jiayu through her college journey.