Maya Hawkins, Volunteer at Digital Girl

Repair the World NYC Fellow Maya Hawkins left and Digital Girl students learning STEM in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Repair the World NYC Fellow Maya Hawkins left and Digital Girl students learning STEM in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

During this week’s celebration of Purim, we read about Queen Esther, who proudly and bravely stands up to King Ahasuerus, ultimately saving the Jews from the evil Haman. In honor of Queen Esther, we are excited to support Digital Girl, a Brooklyn-based organization that that works with inner city youth, especially girls, to learn and pursue activities and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Read our interview below with Repair the World NYC Fellow, Maya Hawkins. Repair the World fellows volunteer at different organizations to address social justice issues in their communities.


What is the mission of the Digital Girl?

Digital Girl's mission is to encourage inner city youth, especially girls, to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The organization is motivated by the United States’ overall lag in producing an adequate number of STEM professionals and the under representation of women and people of color in these jobs.


Why did you decide to volunteer with Digital Girl?

I am a fellow at Repair the World so it's my job to support a non-profit doing good work. Michelle Gall, the founder of Digital Girl, inspired me to want to work with Digital Girl because she talked to me about all the good they are doing in the world. Seriously, she's wonderful.

The educational system does not offer women and people of color (especially women of color) the same opportunities to learn STEM that is offered to white men. This happens by slashing school budgets or when women and people of color are gently encouraged to pursue other areas. I saw that in my own life. I loved physics but I was told I wasn't good at it because I struggled with math. So I gave up. I work with Digital Girl because I don't want kids to give up something they love.


What is something that has inspired you while volunteering with Digital Girl?

Recently, I was sitting with one of the students who was really struggling with a puzzle she was working on. I didn't have the answer to it either, so we worked together and learned together for half an hour. When she finally figured it out, she got up and did a little dance. It showed me that it is possible to learn patience and resilience.

How would you connect the work this organization is doing to a Jewish value?

The importance of education is invaluable in Judaism. This is a value that we should strive to extend to all people and Digital Girl does that. Education is a value in Judaism and we have fought long and hard as a people for the right to learn.

What has surprised you about working with this organization?

I am often surprised by how easy coding is. To be fair, we're not teaching 2nd graders Javascript. But we are teaching them how to think like a coder. How to get a computer to do what they want it to do. And I can do that. Every time I go to help a student and I'm actually able to understand how to help them, I am shocked.

What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in this organization or cause?

You can volunteer to help run a class [in Brooklyn]! No experience needed. Email me at maya.hawkins@werepair.org.

To learn more about Digital Girl visit www.digitalgirlinc.org.


Amy Benarroch