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#48 "The Heart of a Mathlete"

Updated: May 1

Blog #48 is about the conversation I had with the founder of the social enterprise Free Will (https://www.freewill.com/), Jenny Xia Spradling.


Jenny LOVED math as a high schooler. She was a mathlete and participated in math competitions regularly. As a senior, she was nominated to be on the homecoming court. During the homecoming parade, Jenny had planned to walk with the mathletes wearing giant cardboard calculators, but as a princess, she was expected to ride with the rest of the court on the float wearing a crown and dress. Jenny wore her crown, but she walked with the mathletes styling the math cardboard calculator. 


Maybe people who love math, like Jenny, look at problems through a different lens - the lens that most problems are solvable. She shared a practical example with me. Jenny’s after school job was at Starbucks. After working until close one night, she realized that the unused pastries were thrown away at the end of the day (problem). Jenny asked her manager if she could take the extra food to the local homeless shelter down the road (solution).


As Jenny grew up, she began to realize that math could be used for so much more than solving problems on paper. Math could be used to make an impact. Eventually this crown wearing, calculator sporting barista ended up attending Harvard and Stanford. Her math skills combined with a heart for helping others led her to an elite consulting company where she helped launch the firm’s first impact investment fund.


Jenny later co-founded a social enterprise that may become the single fastest fundraising tool for non-profits ever. It’s called Free Will and gives people a simple, free way to write or rewrite their wills and give to charity while doing it. The process is entirely online and creates an easy platform to give to the people and charities the user loves. They have made 100,000 wills and facilitated one BILLION dollars being committed to charity. Sounds like a lot of math and a lot of heart. 


So, what can we learn from Jenny? We can learn that the subject we love can be used to make the world a better place. If you are a math person, a science lover, a history buff, an art appreciator, you can also be a difference maker. Every subject is fascinating in its own way and can be used for the greater good. Think about Jenny and the awesome impact that was created when she connected her mind to her heart and helped raise one billion dollars. You can do the same.


If you’re reading this as a high schooler, go do your math homework! It might just be the first step to making a difference!!



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