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A Look Inside Boston’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program

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Bernice Kwade is a 15 year old girl who recently completed the Girls Who Code (GWC) summer immersion program in Boston, Massachusetts.

Since completing the program, Bernice has started a GWC club at her high school in Holyoke, MA – the Paulo Friere Social Justice Charter School.

For those unaware, Girls Who Code is probably one of the most well-known organizations in the US that promotes girls in tech. Catering solely to high school girls, GWC has summer immersion programs and now High School clubs at certain schools.

GWC, and its leader Reshma Saujani, have been featured across multiple news outlets as a voice for closng the gender gap in technology and engineering sectors.

With all this being said, I was really excited to connect with Bernice – a girl who has not only completed one of the GWC immersion programs, but also continued the Girls Who Code mission by creating a GWC club at her school.

Life Before the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program

Before attending the GWC summer program, Bernice had some experience working with Scratch in the 8th grade. (Basically, Scratch is a drag and drop software that makes creating programs easy.)

However, not until her sophomore year of HS did Bernice gain more exposure to computer programming.

“My school offered a computer class that dabbled in everything from basic computer skills to basic computer science, so that's where I started coding. But I have always liked computers and the things I can create with them from a PowerPoint presentation to a video game.”

Following the class, Bernice began taking some online coding classes on her own. At this point, her computer teacher recognized how much Bernice enjoyed coding and recommended she check out GWC.

The GWC Summer Immersion Session

After applying and getting accepted into the summer immersion program, Bernice headed to Boston for seven weeks of her summer.

“I wanted to do it so badly that I home stayed with 4 different families over the course of 7 seven weeks.”

Not only lasting close to two months, the program also went from 9-5 Monday through Friday. So, basically, like a full-time job.

As far as course learning goes, Bernice explains, “we learned like a bit of everything [from] HTML, JavaScript (jQuery, Processing JS), Python, CSS and Scratch.”

According to Bernice, the program's agenda was as follows:

  • First Week: Basic CS Terminology and Concepts
  • Second Week: Robotics and Python
  • Third Week: JavaScript and Processing JS
  • Fourth Week: Web Design (HTML) and Mobile Design with jQuery
  • Fifth Week: Animation and graphics
  • Sixth Week: Project Week with all skills learned encompassed (Bernice's group made a video game)
  • Seventh Week: Final and Skills Building

Essentially, the GWC immersion program sounds like a cooler version of your typical intro to CS class.

Even better, Bernice explains that,

“All throughout the weeks we visited tech companies and met with important women and people in computer science or the tech world.”

So, not only were the girls learning how to code, they were also meeting influential women in the tech sector.

Bernice's Favorite Stuff to Code

After completing the summer program, it was further instilled that Bernice loves coding. Moreover, she found that she especially enjoys the front end and user experience side of things.

“I really like JavaScript and HTML. I would love to make things where I can see the results quickly and doing stuff that the world can see.”

Bernice also enjoys creating video games and animations, but claims she is not an artist.

Creating a Girls Who Code Club At Her High School

After Bernice's successful summer program, she wanted to bring the GWC experience right to her high school.

Fortunately, Girls Who Code also offers the ability to start an after-school club. These clubs are open for both middle school and high school girls. Moreover, GWC clubs serve as way for girls to get involved who weren't able to attend a more intensive summer session.

At her HS, Bernice is the club leader and the main organizer. While she will be in charge of recruiting girls for the club, GWC finds the teacher.

Of course, making an after school club like this successful takes the involvement of multiple parties – like the school itself, which must offer a location to host the club and provide an advisor.

Bernice ensures that her “school is being very helpful and cooperative.”

Bernice KwadeBernice's Future Plans

Today, Bernice is a junior in high school.

As far as future plans go, Bernice loves to travel and hopes to take advantage of every opportunity to do so with her high school.

Looking ahead at possible career plans,

“I always wanted to be a lawyer but I also know how much I love computers and coding so I am trying to find ways to mash the two. I want to go to college and either major in computer since or international relations or both :D.”

Regardless of what Bernice decides to study in college, her future certainly looks bright.

You can find out more about Girls Who Code here or connect with Bernice on Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of Waag Society, Flickr.


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