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#STEMSpotlight: Tong Zhang of Oregon MESA

Tong Zhang

What’s the name of your organization?
Oregon MESA

What’s your title?
Executive Director

In which city (or cities) is your organization located?
Portland, with programs in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington, Marion, and (soon) Klamath Counties.

Describe your organization and its mission.
Oregon MESA equips teachers to help underrepresented middle and high school students excel in STEM through hands-on invention education. With MESA, more students from marginalized backgrounds not only graduate from high school but also enroll in post-secondary studies and enter the workforce with STEM, 21st century and invention skills — fueling the innovation economy with diverse, talented leaders.

What’s been the biggest challenge? Your proudest moment?
Our biggest challenge is on switching the narrative around what it takes to achieve equity in STEM education. The students are not the problem. Students are innovative, teachers are passionate, and families are resourceful and supportive. Education and economic systems have not been set up to benefit students, families, and schools from marginalized communities.

The proudest moment is each time someone new encounters MESA students and realizes just how talented they are and how powerful their voices are.

What are the short and long-term goals for your organization?
Short term, continuing to deepen equity practices in everything we do and continuing to support students through this pandemic.

Long term, growth and impact throughout the state of Oregon. We are planning to add programs outside of the Northern Willamette Valley for the first time this year.

How can TAO and community members support your work?
Support our expansion and work through donating, volunteering, and partnering!

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