Graduation: Congratulations to Software.org’s Girls Who Code Class of 2017
On August 9, students from the Software.org and Salesforce.org classrooms gathered at Georgetown’s Healey Family Student Center with their teachers and family members for an exciting evening: the Girls Who Code graduation. The ceremony began with a welcome from the Girls Who Code teaching staff and Georgetown University CIO Judd Nicholson.
Software.org Executive Director Chris Hopfensperger followed their welcomes with his congratulations to the graduating class. “I have been amazed at the curiosity and creativity you’ve displayed over the last seven weeks,” he told them. “Software.org believes that much of the growing demand for coders can and should be filled by young women like you. As more women go into coding, it will encourage others to follow. You are the role models of the future.” The highlight of Hopfensperger’s remarks was undoubtedly when he told the girls the laptops they’d been using over the summer were theirs to keep.
Hopfensperger then introduced the keynote speaker, Toya Gatewood, the first black woman to become a Salesforce MVP. In high school Gatewood faced unexpected circumstances that might have discouraged some from pursuing a higher education in tech. Instead, she persevered, and through a less conventional path became a Salesforce administrator. As an MVP, Gatewood is one of the 200 best Salesforce software users in the world, and helps inspire millions of other Salesforce Trailblazers. Citing the struggles she faced on her journey, Gatewood encouraged the girls to always persist in the face of adversity. “There will be plenty of people who will doubt you because you’re a woman, because of what you look like, or where you’re from,” she told them, “but never doubt yourself. And never give up.” Before departing, Gatewood shared her admiration for the students. “I’m so proud of all of you here tonight,” she said. “You inspire me to learn and do more, and I cannot wait to see what you do next. Congratulations!”
The final speakers of the night were the girls and the teachers themselves. Mamai Mulwanda, from Software.org’s classroom, spoke about the skills she’d learned and the friends she’d made. ”Over the summer I’ve been able to persevere through problems and been encouraged by the wonderful girls that I was surrounded by,” she said. Maya Shende, the lead teacher for the Software.org classroom, echoed these sentiments.
Next, the Software.org and Salesforce.org classes pitched their final projects, a culmination of the skills they’d learned during the program. The “Pictures for a Purpose” group created a website with images related to different causes like Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, and pride. A “donate” tab on the site allows visitors to contribute to the pictured causes. The “Edge” group’s website has information about the environment, including how to improve it, and nearby organizations the user can visit. “Shelter 411” helps animal lovers find volunteer opportunities at local shelters. The “Hair Rebellion” site has quizzes, tips, and information to help young girls take care of and embrace their natural hair. The “Those Who Matter” group built a website that connects visitors with anti-human trafficking organizations they can donate to. The final Software.org group created a robot called the Solar Stalker. Armed with a solar panel, the Solar Stalker can charge a phone while following the sun to maximize the amount of light it takes in.
Finally, it was time for the girls to graduate. One by one, each girl walked across the stage to proudly collect her diploma. Once everyone had received a certificate, the ceremony concluded and a poster session for the final projects began. The groups shared project demos with guests, showing their websites in action and explaining the computer science skills they’d used to make it. The sophistication, creativity, and technical skills of the projects conveyed a clear message: these girls are the tech leaders of the future – and they’re just getting started.