By Lydia F. –
GIRL is a great program that has taught me not to underestimate myself and to take advantage of possibilities. The GIRL career summits helped me discover what I was passionate about and interested in. Through these summits, I met women who were doing extraordinary things in their fields which stirred up my ambition. The GIRL networking luncheon showed me how to be bold and introduced me to inspiring mentors who have taught me that I do not have to limit myself when it comes to a choosing a career path.
Last summer, I participated in Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, which is a free 8-week program that introduces girls to computing. Girls Who Code was really a great opportunity for me. I learned to code with python, java, and HTML. I really enjoyed the first few lessons because every command I wrote came out the way I wanted, and I loved the feeling of accomplishment it gave me, which made me a little more confident. At the end of the program, we had to do a final project which was to create a product of our own. Sometime during my freshman and sophomore years, I had developed an interest in healthcare, especially for underserved countries. When thinking of what to create, I decided to combine my passions for healthcare and technology by developing a malaria tracking app. My experience at Girls Who Code opened a lot of doors for me. I realized the numerous opportunities available to girls in computing and the versatility of the computing field.
The next school year, I took computer science which was my first technology class that dealt with coding. Not sure if a career solely in computer science was right for me, I began doing career exploration on my school’s Naviance page when I saw an alert to apply for the NCWIT (National Center for Women in Computing) award for Aspirations in Computing. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing honors high school women who are active and interested in computing and technology and encourages them to pursue their passions. I won the Virginia Affiliate award and a National Honorable mention for my aspirations in computing. Because I showed interest in introducing other girls to computing, NCWIT encouraged me to apply for a grant to start an AspireIT program in my area.
AspireIT is an outreach program that seeks to introduce girls to technology and build their confidence in this male dominated field. I was blessed to be awarded a grant to start an AspireIT program. This meant a lot to me because I was troubled by the lack of gender diversity in technology classes. Most of the technology classes in my school had no more than three girls. I sought an explanation for this and realized that girls are not exposed to technology like guys are, and the fear of the unknown, especially with the pressure of getting a good grade, keeps them from taking technology classes. I hope my program addresses this issue by introducing girls to computing in a friendly environment and showing them that they have the ability to succeed in this field as I had learned months earlier.
In the middle of my junior year, I started to plan my summer activities and was going through the process of looking for summer enrichment programs when I came across the MIT OEOP (Office of Engineering Outreach Programs). The OEOP at MIT offers three summer programs: MITES, E2@MIT, and MOSTEC. When you apply for the OEOP summer programs, you are considered for all three programs. I was really favored to be accepted to E2@MIT which is a one-week residential program that introduces participants to science and engineering. I took a course in Synthetic Biology. In one week, I learned a lot about Synthetic Biology and applied it to develop a method to solve an environmental issue. I enjoyed working in the lab with live microorganisms and learning to brand new bioengineering concepts in my Synthetic Biology course. I also gained better communication skills by learning how to take the initiative and approach others to network and form relationships. From several college preparation sessions, E2 taught me that the focus of the college admission process is not only on my statistics, but who I am as a person. My engineering experience at MIT showed me a new way to connect my interest in the sciences to computing through Synthetic Biology.
By the grace of God, I was able to have these opportunities that have taught me how to interconnect my passions and interests and have given me a better sense of what career I want to pursue in the future. I encourage all girls to seek out opportunities such as these, and the key to doing that is to have personal ambition.