About one dozen girls were using their HTML skills to create posters for social change and civic engagement.

The girls are part of dcConnectGirls Technology Club which was created as part of the dcConnectHome digital inclusion initiative. The computers they were using are from Kano and the girls built them themselves in previous meet ups of the club. Each month they work on a new coding project.

Oliver Beach, lead of global partnerships for Kano, said that his company is supporting dcConnectHome with devices to help young people in the community develop digital skills. This particular curriculum of civic engagement is new.

“We want them to connect to causes they care about and amplify their voices with technology,” he said. “They are writing lines of code for a cause.”

After a discussion, the girls decided their cause would be #PinkandBlueAreForGirls – promoting the idea that colors, sports, and other activities are not gender specific.

The club is led by AspireIT Program Leaders. AspireIT is a program that connects high school and college-aged women with girls in grades K-12 to cultivate an interest in technology. The program is part of the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing program, which provides a long-term community for females of all ages in the world of technology. The program encourages and supports participants through their computing education and development. DCHA applied and became an NCWIT AspireIT program partner in 2016 as part of the dcConnectHome initiative, hosting an annual two-day coding summer camp for young girls living in public housing communities. Last year, NCWIT expanded AspireIT beyond summer sessions, offering start-up funding for programming during the school year. dcConnectHome was one of the recipients of the new grant and started dcConnectGirls with the goal of creating ongoing experiences that challenge young girls by exposing them to a variety of technology-related activities.

The new curriculum component that was shared at the February meeting combined computer science with social activism allowing the girls to “talk about themselves, but also work together to make posters,” said Neha Damaraju, the AspireIT Program Leader and junior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia.

“Taking an interest and applying computer science was a lot more fun for them,” said Riya Dabbi, an AspireIT volunteer and high school junior.

The girls, who are in grades 6 to 10, meet once a month to develop their HTML coding skills. They have built websites and outfitted them with photos and a few lines of information. They flip back and forth easily from the HTML coding window to their webpages like pros.

Bindu Srinivasa, an AspireIT volunteer and high school junior, said, “The creativity aspect of the club has changed so much. Now they think of ideas on their own and ask us how to do them. We’ve seen how much they’ve grown in programming, but also with their imaginations.”

Each girl presented her project and explained their reasoning behind their posters as the session came to a close. Then they listened to three women who have jobs that involve technology share their stories.

Amber Petty, senior manager at EveryoneOn; Andrea Riehl, community relations manager at Best Buy; and Leithia Williams, senior commercial counsel at GitHub spoke about their professions, their experiences in the tech world as a female, and how technology is ever evolving and affecting many more professions in a variety of ways.

“Today we got to learn about different hashtags and coding for advocacy,” said Teresa Matthews, a 15-year-old club member. “It was very interesting. I’m not really a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) person, but it was fun learning about it.”

She continued, “I liked the speakers. Their stories weren’t the same but they had good experiences to offer.”

dcConnectHome is a led by the Office of the Mayor and DCHA, representing one of 28 communities nationwide selected in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in ConnectHome, a national initiative that aims to increase access and technology education for HUD-assisted families. Partnerships are the key to dcConnectHome’s success—national partnerships established by HUD ConnectHome, like the one with NCWIT’s AspireIT program, have been instrumental in providing technology based opportunities for DCHA residents.  In addition, the dedicated collaboration between the local government and DCHA resulted in successfully connecting 1,785 households throughout DCHA’s portfolio to high speed internet. Nearly 760 school-age children live within those 1,785 households.


Last modified: 3/5/2018 3:42:45 PM