High School Girls Learn Code and Confidence

By Erin Delmore

“So you use the arrow keys and you shoot pepper spray to ward off the cat callers,” said Maria Vivanco of Elizabeth High School.

This video game is the brainchild of a group of high school juniors and seniors. They’re graduates of Girls Who Code — a nation-wide program that aims to close the gender gap in science and math-based careers. Check out this healthy eating app.

“One serving of string cheese is the same as your index finger,” said Joanne Mouynivong from Science Park High School.

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“It takes me about 25 minutes to walk from the station to campus, so I could write down that it takes me 25 minutes. And at the end of those 25 minutes it will ask me if I’ve reached my destination. If I have it will do nothing, and if I haven’t or if I just don’t respond then it will send out a notification to all my emergency contacts,” Catarina Dematos from Chatham High School said. Plus, “If you’re on a bad blind date that’s making you very uncomfortable, you can pretend like you’re getting a little phone call.”

In this program, girls learn coding, computing, web design, web development, robotics, animation, graphics and more. Plus, they learn how to present their ideas with confidence.

“I feel a lot better about myself and about what I can do. I feel like after this program, wow, I can do this, me and my team. We all built this, and all of us girls built all these things and it’s just, it’s amazing,” said Isha Pradhan from Hopewell Valley Central High School.

From sit-downs with CEOs to collaborations with classmates, the program builds up skill sets and breaks down stigmas

“I’d always assumed that coders were like those hackers who stayed up until 2 a.m. in the dark and I realized that you know it’s a community of friends who all are collaborating. It’s really exciting to feel like you have this network now graduating from Girls Who Code,” said Dorothy Quincy from Horace Mann School.

Senator Cory Booker congratulated Newark’s first graduates.

“We have a nation that is desperately in need of people in the STEM fields and women are so underrepresented, even though they’re about half of all the college graduates workers in America, they make up only about 28 percent of those going into the STEM subjects. Our nation can’t afford to be bereft of that genius, those contribution, that excellence. So programs like this that show women viable pathways to contributions that are extraordinary and are so important,” he said.

Plus, they’re using their gender as an asset.

“They are developing solutions, they are developing products, that men just don’t think about. And so there’s a real opportunity for companies to hire these young ladies and have them on product teams to develop solutions that will put a company in a competitive position to dominate and build products that aren’t on the market today,” said Solomon Steplight, CFO/COO of Girls Who Code.

Around 3,000 girls graduated from the program in its first three years and now it’s booming. Program administrators say they expect almost 10,000 graduates this year alone.