Computing Minds is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that I founded to do something about the lack of female representation in today’s technology industry. I am the Executive Director.
How I Got Into Coding
When I was in fourth grade, someone came into our class one day after lunch to teach us a short lesson on the basics of coding. During the lesson, we put coding blocks together for a character to move through a simple obstacle course. Although it was only a one-day experience, it ended up being one of my favorite memories of fourth grade. I did not know how to further pursue computer science, but the wishing to learn more remained in the back of my mind until I got to my first year of high school. As I was signing up for classes, I noticed that an option was a beginner’s course on computer science called “The Joy of Computing,” so I signed up for it.
Why I Decided to Start an Organization
By the end of my first week of high school, The Joy of Computing had become my favorite class. However, also by the end of the first week, a friend of mine in the class had started spending most of her time watching Netflix instead of making the projects. She hadn’t given the class enough time yet to see if she liked it or not, but instead showed up with the “coding is not for me” mindset without having ever tried it. From then on, that continued to be her mindset.
Although there were some other girls besides me in my class, the boys really seemed to dominate everything. There were boys in the back who were always being loud and rowdy, so one of the class sayings became “boys in the back.”
As the weeks went on, I began to understand how there was a lack of female representation in our classroom because traditional gender roles had shaped the atmosphere. I also realized that the reason that I went into The Joy of Computing with a more open mind was that I had already been introduced to a fun computer science lesson once in fourth grade, and I wanted to have that type of experience again. And traditional gender roles relating to computer science— where there is male dominance and female modesty—had not been imprinted on me as deeply. It helped me to be encouraged and introduced to computer science at a young age, versus my friend who had been conditioned to automatically think she wouldn’t like it.
As the weeks went on, I began to understand how there was a lack of female representation in our classroom because traditional gender roles had shaped the atmosphere.
In order to change this underrepresentation for females in computer science, I decided to start teaching coding classes to girls at a young age. I also decided that there would need to be a few core values for the classes to have the biggest positive effect: the classes would be fun for the students, supportive, and accessible to students of all socioeconomic statuses.
How I Turned My Organization Into a Nonprofit
After having my organization for a year, I wanted to expand it and start fundraising. I realized all of the benefits that a nonprofit organization offered for the type of program that I had, so I decided to apply for nonprofit status.
At the start of my second year of high school, when I was 15, I would go to a local library after school to do the application paperwork. I bought a Nolo self-help book that was helpful.
Although obtaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit status was a lot of paperwork and a big-time commitment, I am happy that I did it because it has opened up many more opportunities to reach more students and provide more programs. There were also some fun parts involved in becoming a nonprofit—like coming up with the official nonprofit’s name, Computing Minds, and choosing our great group of board members.
Programs Computing Minds Offers
Right now, our biggest programs are our free coding classes and our scholarships.
Our coding classes are for girls age 9-12 and they teach the fundamentals of computer science. We have classes for girls who have never coded before and classes for girls with some experience. At Computing Minds, we are always making more interest lists for coding classes, so to sign up or learn more about the coding classes, go to computingminds.org
Scholarship winners will be announced on May 1st, 2021. Our scholarship is to support women who are pursuing computer science and going into their freshman year of college in the Fall of 2021. This annual scholarship will also continue next year.
How I Continue to Expand Computing Minds
In order to continue growing Computing Minds, we are building a team of volunteers. It is extremely important to have people working together who love teamwork. We have volunteer opportunities for high schoolers that could help with WordPress, digital art, fundraising, coordinating partnerships, social media, and, of course, teaching classes!