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Girls rewriting the code

Photo: Following her experience with Girls Who Code and Twitter, BVNW junior Lily Sha hopes to pursue a career in computer science or engineering.

The doors of the conference room swing open as a group of 16- and 17-year-old girls enter their new classroom for the next seven weeks. Peering through the all-glass walls, Lily Sha takes in the scene around her at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. Outside of the conference room software engineers line the  oor, zoned into their computers while stringing together various combinations of zeros and ones—creating, inventing, coding.

Sha, a junior at Blue Valley Northwest, is one of 1,200 girls who participated in a Girls Who Code summer immersion program this year. This 7-week program is offered in nine cities nationwide at companies like Twitter, Google, Facebook and more with the sole purpose of teaching girls about the field of computer science and closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

According to the Girls Who Code website, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computing-related  elds by 2020, but only 3 percent of those are expected to be  lled by women educated in the U.S. For Sha, programs like Girls Who Code are just what females need to arm themselves with the knowledge and confidence to break down gender barriers and establish a career in computer science.

“[The program] was really inspiring,” Sha said. “It made me feel like I could actually go do those things with my life because I’ve always wanted to do things [with math and science] and make an impact. And to be a female making an impact, that means a lot to me.”

“If a girl has an interest in computer science or any STEM field, she should go ahead and do it, even [if it seems intimidating]. You can do it and it’s important to show people that women are capable.”

Lily Sha, Blue Valley Northwest junior

During her time with Girls Who Code and Twitter, Sha was exposed to different aspects of computer science, had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, visited technology companies, interacted with girls just like her who are interested in computer science and even developed her own app.

While Girls Who Code helped Sha discover her interest in computer science, she admits that her supportive parents and experiences in Blue Valley Schools have also played a major role in her journey to a career in computer science or engineering. “I had a science teacher in (a Blue Valley) middle school who took the time to tell me and my mother that I had a particular gift in science,” Sha said. “That really changed my life, and my faith and belief in myself changed dramatically.”

This con dence has continued to blossom during her time at Blue Valley Northwest with teachers who have encouraged Sha to push herself in different areas of math and strengthened her confidence in confronting new situations through extracurricular activities like Science Olympiad.

Outside of her home high school, programs like the Biology Club at Blue Valley’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies
(CAPS) have provided Sha with experience in research methods and exposure to students and teachers who are committed to
STEM-based careers.

These positive interactions with Blue Valley’s STEM curriculum and programs, along with Sha’s experience with Girls Who Code, have inspired her to rewrite the “code” of the computer science industry by expanding female presence. With plans to start a local Girls Who Code club at her high school, Sha is well on her way to breaking down industry barriers and encouraging girls of all ages to do the same.

“I am hoping to become an ambassador for Girls Who Code and continue to share what a life-changing event this program can provide,” Sha said. “If a girl has an interest in computer science or any STEM  eld, she should go ahead and do it, even [if it seems intimidating]. You can do it and it’s important to show people that women are capable.”