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Kintashe Mainsah, '21

Counting blocks, playing tag, and building educational equity

I woke up at 8:00 am with a splitting headache. I had gone to sleep only three hours earlier, after staying up late to finish a chemistry p-set. I rolled over to turn off my alarm and smiled, despite the pain behind my eyes. I hopped out of bed like I was starring in a Disney movie, trying not to let my giddy excitement wake my roommate. It was a Tuesday morning, and I was going to see my preschoolers. 

Tutoring the children at St. Elizabeth Seton School as part of the Preschool Counts program through the Haas Center was a treasured experience in my Stanford career. Twice a week, I would develop a lesson plan and deliver it to the two preschoolers I worked with that quarter. I would keep track of their progress through weekly reflections and photos, and over the course of the quarter, I got to know the children as people and as learners. 

I’ve always loved children and teaching, but what drew me to this program the most was the course associated with the tutoring. Each week, my peers and I would meet as a cohort to discuss teaching strategies, learn about the history of the East Palo Alto community, and understand the larger issues surrounding educational equity and youth development. Exploring these issues on a systemic level in a Stanford class and then working through them on an individual level in an elementary school classroom was an incredible experience in empathy and cultural awareness. 

The summer after I took this Cardinal Course, Renee Scott, who teaches the course and directs the program, connected me with the DREME Network, a team of researchers around the country working to advance the field of early math learning and teaching. As a summer researcher, I was able to continue the work I did during the school year on a macro level, exploring the early childhood education curriculum landscape across the United States, as well as how to increase the accessibility of these programs and resources.

The Haas Center allowed me to explore a service area that has become an important part of my service journey and long-term career goals, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to turn several mornings of counting and giggles into a lifelong passion for educational equity.

Kintashe Mainsah, '21, is studying human biology, with a minor in American studies. She is a Cardinal Service Peer Advisor, and is also involved with live music and neuroeconomics research at Stanford. Kintashe is originally from Southampton, England.
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