On Wednesday evening, 20 Chicago girls graduated from the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, a seven-week camp that brings together teachers and guest speakers to help girls who are rising juniors and seniors in high school learn what computer science can mean for their futures. The graduation ceremony allowed them to receive their program certificates and be honored by their instructors, families and friends. As a special reward for the girls’ achievement, Microsoft allowed each graduate to keep the Microsoft Surface device they were using during the program and added a copy of Office 2013. These were donated by the Microsoft YouthSpark program and will enable the girls to continue their coding, design and other tech work well into the future.
Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit working to close the gender gap in computer science. In the Summer Immersion Program, girls learn everything from robotics to mobile development to HTML and CSS. Microsoft is a co-sponsor of the Chicago program along with Accenture, GE, Google and Groupon, and in addition to hosting the graduation ceremony has provided program support including guest speakers and mentors. Through the YouthSpark program, Microsoft also supports the national Girls Who Code organization and co-sponsored Summer Immersion Programs in the Bay Area, Boston, New York, and Redmond, Wash.
The evening included the presentation of their final projects, which the girls worked on during the last couple of weeks of the program, using all the skills that they learned to date. Projects included apps, games and sites to learn about candidates for the upcoming election; a guide to show how safe your local campus is; a website created for high school age teens who want to participate in extracurricular activities; a fashion site to make shopping an easier, more comfortable and informative experience for customers; and an interactive game to learn about different types of cancers.
“I can say for my daughter at least that before this program she was not sure what major she would apply this fall when applying to colleges and universities, but now, it is crystal clear,” said Abhijit Gupta, father of participant Binita Gupta. “She told me ‘Dad, this is it, I’m going for computer science, especially after this project we just completed.’ Thank you, Girls Who Code, and thank you, Microsoft.”
“Girls Who Code is a type of program that gives everybody an equal opportunity to succeed in any field,” said Zahwa Haiyousif, who gave the student keynote address. “Considering that tech is such a wide industry, they enabled us with skills to make us successful anywhere that any of us choose to go.”
Shelley Stern Grach took part in the program this summer, working one-on-one with girls to help them learn more about the technology industry. Microsoft has also been supporting the Summer Immersion Program with social media under the theme “Changing the Face of Coding.” We’re proud to be helping to do just that. The graduates of this year’s Chicago program are proving that when you give girls an opportunity to make their way in computer science, they can accomplish great things.