Written by Libby Jacobson Fox
As the lifeblood of future economic growth and innovation, women should be celebrated for inspiring us on a daily basis. For the next week, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.
Through articles, videos, social and multimedia content, we will be showcasing how women are mothers, mentors, leaders, influencers, and powerful agents of change at Verizon and in the technology world.
Every child “futurist” needs a champion to support her interest in technology and learning.
On a recent Saturday morning, several such girls, along with their champions, gathered for a mother-and-daughter Black Girls Code workshop at the Howard University Middle School of Math and Science in Washington D.C.
The girls grabbed their laptops and immediately jumped right into their assignment, quickly filling their screens with thumping and jumping cartoon hearts for their moms for Mother’s Day.
“My mom, she’s like, my rock,” said Najla Guinyard of her mother Serwa, when asked why celebrating Mother’s Day is important to her. Najla is a regular at Black Girls Code, as well as summer engineering camps, and plans to own her own app company someday.
Black Girls Code is an organization that seeks to increase the number of women of color pursuing innovative careers in STEM-related professions. In addition to Washington D.C., Black Girls Code has active chapters in the Bay Area, Raleigh and Durham, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Memphis and New York. Girls ages 7 to 17 who participate in one of these local chapters gain experience with computer science and technology, including classes in coding, web design and robotics.
In partnership with Black Girls Code, the Verizon Foundation is sponsoring chapters in Raleigh and Durham, Washington D.C. and now Boston. The chapters include a summer camp in each city a yearlong slate of workshops and enrichment events.
I asked Johnny Austin, the course instructor and a volunteer curriculum development lead with Black Girls Code’s Washington D.C. chapter, why it’s so important for girls interested in STEM to have a champion.
“There’s so much out there to explore; it’s difficult for even a motivated young person to know where to begin,” Austin said. Beyond mentoring, a champion plays an important role in providing a child with some direction.
The girls in his class, on the other hand, didn’t appear to need much assistance with today’s task. They took to it immediately as their moms looked on.
“It’s so exciting to see her develop,” said Serwa. All of the mothers spoke with pride when describing their daughters’ interest in technology.
While these moms are all certainly champions for their daughters’ future, they also encourage the girls’ creative thinking.
Another participant, Kiyara Jaundoo, said that, for her, coding is an expression of her imagination. Kiyara also shared with me her ambitions for the future: to own an art gallery and build robots.
Clearly, she’s got big things awaiting her down the road!