Junior Geek of the Month: Mona Li Empowered Girls in High School and Seeks a Similar Path in College - Start Up Gazzete
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Junior Geek of the Month: Mona Li Empowered Girls in High School and Seeks a Similar Path in College


Mona Li was already a student leader during her time at Garfield High School in Seattle, where she helped empower other girls and get them interested in technology and STEM-related fields.

Bank of America recognized that leadership last summer by selecting Li as one of hundreds of student leaders for 2021, a program that helps prepare young people to enter the workforce through hands-on skills and leadership development.

Li, 18, is now a freshman at Cornell University, where she is once again looking for ways to contribute to her community now and in the future.

And now GeekWire is choosing Li as the Junior Geek of the Month for September. The monthly honor presented by the Northern Trust is in recognition of talented young academics, innovators, creators and entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest.

Li’s intended major is biology and society, and an interdisciplinary major combining physical science and social science. She attracted him because she is on a pre-med path and hopes to become a doctor.

“I think health care is something that is super important, but unfortunately not all socioeconomic demographics have the same access to it,” Li said. “So by studying biology and society, I hope to get a very comprehensive perspective that will help establish a path as a physician in the future.”

Li is particularly interested in ensuring that young people of all backgrounds have access to health care resources and support. She is interested in pediatrics and outreach medicine that would target underserved communities. Part of that was brought home by her internship at Bank of America with Treehouse, a Seattle nonprofit that addresses academic and other essential support for youth in foster care.

“My work with Treehouse this summer was very shocking,” Li said. “I was able to learn more about young people in foster care, learning about the barriers they have to overcome really made me want to get into that field of pediatrics and work with all young people of all backgrounds.”


Bank of America Senior Vice President Britney Sheehan said the internship program has attracted about 300 community-focused youth and seniors each year since 2004. A diverse portfolio of students can see all aspects of management and nonprofit leadership, and leverage the impact they want to have in the future.

“Mona is a great demonstration of it,” Sheehan said. “She impacted her high school community and this summer she helped impact the Seattle community, and she is now at Cornell and looking for ways to make an impact there.”

In high school, Li was a member of the Women in Technology club for four years, ascending to vice president as a senior. She also founded a chapter of Girl Up at Garfield focused on girls’ abilities and opportunities, and focused on making sure girls had the support and encouragement to pursue interests in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“This was something that I was passionate about because in my sophomore year, in particular, I noticed that there was not a super encouraging environment, it was kind of competitive,” Li said. “I noticed that some of the girls were feeling a bit shy to speak up and ask questions when they needed help.”

The club fostered an inclusive environment, conducted team-building activities, and helped connect younger students with older mentors. They also invited guest speakers from local companies or toured, including Amazon headquarters in Seattle, where the girls from the club got a chance to see careers and passions rooted in STEM.

Li also interned at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the Burke Museum, where she studied biochemistry, immunology, public health, and climate change. And she was a volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo and a competitive swimmer at Garfield.

At Cornell, she recently attended a club festival to seek again the kind of community that will foster inclusion and support.

“Empowering women is really important to me, as is social equity in general, and just making sure all demographic groups have access to resources and opportunities,” Li said. “That definitely continues at Cornell and into the future.”

Author avatar
Joshua Smith

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