How Girls Who Code Helped me Give Back to Black Girls

Girls Who Code Atlanta

Coding is a component of my activism that I enjoy using for social change. My journey to giving back began when a robotics team discriminated against me for being inclined to be a programmer.

I was given the lowest functioning computer on the team, which consequently took me almost three months install the programming software, while my White counterparts had installations already set up for them. The coach offered me a position that works with the electrical component of the robot because she “just wanted me to have fun”. There were times where I would find my mentors isolating me from my teammates. One has called me lazy, a communist, and another would ask if I had a learning disability when I would get confused. When I asked out of frustration why my programming partner had been receiving credit for my work, my coach and mentors had accused me of being ungracious, acting out and personally attacking another teammate, thus perpetuating the “angry Black girl” narrative.

I started attending Girls Who Code Clubs. Every week, I had to travel over 50 miles from Richmond to Fredericksburg, VA, where the closest Girls Who Code club was located. In April, I was selected by Girls Who Code travel to Atlanta for a coding immersion program with 19 other girls at General Electric.

At the immersion program, we implemented what we learned about variables, conditionals, loops, and functions, into scripted languages such as Python, JavaScript, and C. We learned everything from how robots are used in our everyday lives to making web design accessible to people with disabilities. The immersion program was full of fun-filled opportunities such as visiting Emory University, Georgia Tech, going on a field trip to Twitter and touring MailChimp headquarters in Atlanta.

After about five weeks of programming, we separated into groups and implemented what we learned about web accessibility, Web design and robotics into socially conscious projects that can impact the world. My classmates and I created a project that encourages young Americans to and develop a consciousness about bills being passed in the Senate so they can gain the tools to look from diverse perspectives and become allies to marginalized people.

Not only did this program change my life, but it gave me an opportunity to give back to my community by helping start a Richmond, VA Based Girls Who Code club where I co-facilitate coding workshops hosted by Girls For A Change, a nonprofit organization that inspires Black girls and other girls of color to recognize their full potential through discovery, development and social change innovation. I used my programming skills to help a team of Black girls create the blog they wanted to launch that helps dismantle the negative portrayal of Black girls in the media, and launch a Girls Who Code club in partnership with Girls For A Change.

Girls Who Code creates an environment that teaches girls to be uplifting of each other, and to strive for bravery, not perfection. To me, a computer scientist embodies kindness, resilience, and aspiration. Because of Girls Who Code, I grew as a person, a programmer, a risk taker, and as a problem solver.

Written by Stephanie Younger, a 15 year old black student, aspiring computer programmer, poet, writer and a Central Virginia based activist

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