SEE HER RUN an MIT program that teaches boys and girls to read. The 21-year-old senior, who was born in China and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah at age four, began kindergarten speaking no English.

“The first day of school, I cried because I didn’t know what was going on, ” she says. “I remember the teacher sat me on her lap and read me a story because I was so afraid. I never forgot how happy I felt hearing that story.”

Now, Zhang is working to create positive reading experiences for children in Cambridge and Boston, giving them access forever to the thoughts and ideas of the world.

ReachOut: Teach A Child to Read is an MIT program that is part of the AmericaReads program, a federal initiative begun by President Clinton at more than 1,000 colleges and universities.

Zhang, who runs the program, recruits, trains, and matches MIT tutors with children who need help with reading and writing. Fifty MIT students tutor 70 children ages 5 to 12.

“I believe we’re given skills for a reason –– to help other people,” Zhang says. “I’ve been blessed with the gifts of intelligence and the ability to read well. Why else are we given these skills, other than to better the world?”

Zhang, who studies brain and cognitive science, and who plans to become a doctor, says that to pursue a career while helping others along the way is the way life is meant to be.

“If more people get involved and help someone else, it produces a paradigm shift,” she says. “The more people who apply their skills toward helping people in the community, it could have huge effects in benefiting the rest of the world. When you shift from thinking only about yourself to the larger scope of what your actions could entail, that’s what can change the world.”