More than two dozen young women sat hunched over their keyboards, eyes glued to the screens of their laptops, as they created their personal web pages. Here and there, a small discussion broke out over the proper code to use to get a photo to sit perfectly on the page or how to adjust the background color.  

As part of the dcConnectHome digital inclusion initiative, the girls were taking part in the AspireIT computer coding camp. AspireIT is a program that connects high school and college-aged women with girls in grades K-12 to cultivate an interest in technology. The program is part of the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing program, which provides a long-term community for females of all ages in the world of technology. The program encourages and supports participants through their computing education and development. DCHA applied and became an NCWIT program partner last year as part of the dcConnectHome initiative. The goal is to encourage young girls to consider careers in technology. The event was held at the Frederick Douglass Community Technology Center. 

Leading the computer coding camp this year was Bindu Srinivasa, a 15-year-old student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia. She volunteered during last summer’s AspireIT event and jumped at the chance to lead this summer.

“I really liked what I saw. The kids were so interested and having a good time,” she said. “I love technology, myself. HTML is a really good starting point. Here, they can see code as something new and see it as a career option. Introducing it to these girls at a young age shows them the opportunities of different industries and careers they can go into in the future.”

The girls, who are entering grades 6 to 10, spent two Saturday afternoons developing their pages and learning the basics of HTML coding. As the first day progressed, each girl had outfitted their pages with photos and a few lines of information, flipping back and forth easily from the HTML coding window to their webpages. By the second Saturday, the girls were asking how to change the colors of their text, add GIFs, and more.

“I learned a lot of things. This is my future,” said Jayda, 11, who is interested in a career as a lawyer or judge. “This is helping me put my mind in place. I want to follow my dreams.”

Angelina, 12, attended last year’s training session and was able to help her friends with their pages this year.

“I think I learned [more] than last year,” she said. “I got more mature and learned how everything works.”

Soraya, 11, agreed and said, “Last year was hard.”

Messiah, 11, had fun coding and said she wants to explore more in the field of technology.

“It was fun. I definitely got to express myself and learn things at the same time,” she said.

To emphasize technology as a future career path, Amber Kearney, a product manager at Deloitte Digital, visited the young programmers as the two-day session was coming to an end. Kearney works on developing mobile apps, web design, and digital work strategies for a variety of companies including department stores and jewelry companies.

“Don’t limit yourself. You are on the right track with this program,” said Kearney, a Hampton University graduate. “Use technology as an enabler. One thing I would encourage everyone to do is take advantage of technology.”

She suggested taking coding as a language credit if a school offers it or other programs to learn as much as they can since “technology spans across everything” in any career path these days.

“Absorb as much as you can so you can transfer it to your passion,” Kearney said.

Five participants won Acer Chromebook laptops through a raffle. The rest of the young women received Google Nexus Android phones.

dcConnectHome is a led by the Office of the Mayor and DCHA, representing one of 28 communities nationwide selected in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in ConnectHome, a national initiative that aims to increase access and technology education for HUD-assisted families. Partnerships are the key to dcConnectHome’s success—national partnerships established by HUD ConnectHome, like the one with NCWIT’s AspireIT program, have been instrumental in providing technology based opportunities for DCHA residents.  In addition, the dedicated collaboration between the local government and DCHA resulted in successfully connecting 1,785 households throughout DCHA’s portfolio to high speed internet. Nearly 760 school-age children live within those 1,785 households.


Last modified: 8/8/2017 10:45:54 AM