During my senior year of high school, I won an Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Winning this award not only introduced me to a supportive community of women in computing, but it also provided me with a $3,000 grant to lead an AspireIT program. An AspireIT program’s main goal is to encourage K-12 girls to explore technology and pursue their technological interests. I was very excited to lead an AspireIT program and share my passion for technology with others, however leading such a program requires leadership, communication, and various other skills.
I spent the majority of summer 2018 planning, organizing, and budgeting in preparation for my program in August 2018. My program, called “IT & Me: Pathway Exploration,” exposed twenty-two 7th, 8th, and 9th grade girls to programming and engineering concepts over the course of three eight-hour days. I planned a field trip to COSI, catering for breakfast and lunch every day of the program, a 3-D birdhouse design challenge, and a BOE-Bot robot competition. Although organizing this program was no easy task, the real challenge was implementing the program.
Throughout my program, several events occurred that required me to improvise and quickly decide on the best course of action. On the second day of my program, a student that had not registered for my program showed up to participate. On the third day, the restaurant I had placed a lunch order with accidentally discarded my order without making any of the food. Both of these situations required me to act quickly as the program leader and decide what to do moving forward. These situations were some of the first times in my life that I was forced to make a decision quickly with immediate repercussions. It was also one of the first times that the decision I made was completely my own. I did not have anyone guiding me on what to do; I had to choose what was best for my program.
Overall, leading an AspireIT program helped me improve my leadership, organization, budgeting, and decision making skills. Very few 18-year-olds can say they have managed a $3,000 budget and taught a class of twenty-two students. I cherish my experience as an AspireIT leader not only for the lessons I learned while leading such a program, but also for the impact I was able to make on young girls’ lives. I exposed multiple girls to the power of technology, and several of my participants decided to enroll in technology courses in school as a result of attending my program. I will never forget the excited looks on each girl’s face as they ran their first computer program, and I look forward to the next opportunity I have to share my passion for technology with others.