Girls Who Code & The Families Who Support Their Summer Immersion In Stem

 |   Shelley Stern Grach

Girls Who Code & The Families Who Support Their Summer Immersion In Stem — Abigail

In 2012, we announced Microsoft YouthSpark, a company-wide, global initiative to create opportunities for 300 million youth by 2015. Through 30+ programs and partnerships with more than 350 youth-serving nonprofits, Microsoft YouthSpark has created new opportunities for young people in over 100 countries around the world. To help bring YouthSpark to Chicago’s teens, Microsoft is partnering with Girls Who Code on their Summer Immersion Program.

Girls Who Code was founded in 2012 and focuses on closing the gender gap in computing fields. Mobilizing leading executives, educators, and engineers, Girls Who Code developed a new model of computer science education designed to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the skills to succeed in the field. In just three years, Girls Who Code has delivered 3,000+ hours of instruction to 1,000+ girls nationwide through their flagship Summer Immersion Program and after-school Clubs. The 7-week Summer Immersion Program, hosted at the Chicago Microsoft Technology and Innovation Center, provides 20 high school junior and senior girls with hands-on experience in computing concepts, programming fundamentals, mobile app development, robotics, and web development and design through classroom instruction, talks, demos and workshops.

I had the honor to meet with the Chicago based Girls Who Code leadership team, and to address over 60 young ladies and their parents and families at the Girls Who Code Open House, as they began their Summer Immersion Program. Microsoft is thrilled to be supporting this great program locally by providing space, resources–like our female technology professionals, who serve as Microsoft mentors, guest speakers, workshop leaders and role models, while dispelling misconceptions about computer scientists and the technology field.

You can always tell by the energy and eye communications when parents/guardians and teens are in sync (I know this from personal experience!). Last night, there were smiles, excitement, lots of questions and conversation. When several of the Girls Who Code participants and their families arrived, we were told: “I know the way to the rooms” as the girls have already finished their first week at Microsoft. That brought smiles all around to the Microsoft staff as we now know the girls consider Microsoft “home”.

In addressing the parents, we discussed the urgent need for more STEM and STEAM talent, and our hope that this kind of program will help build a pipeline of women in the technology field, to help with the current gender imbalance. We discussed that this is just the start of the journey, but it’s our hope that more intimate, interactive programs like this will help dispel myths and help build up the girls’ confidence to pursue more technical and science-related fields. As a parent of a daughter who is starting medical school next month, I could really relate to the anticipation of the parents attending last night. They all have great hopes and dreams for their daughters, and we want to shout a big “THANK YOU!!!” to the parents and guardians who are supporting these impressive young ladies, as they attend this 7 week Summer Immersion Program.

Here’s hoping that one day soon, one of the Girls Who Code will be standing in front of the 15th Girls Who Code Summer Immersion class at Microsoft—as a Microsoft employee, telling everyone where her journey really started.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

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Shelley Stern Grach
Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.