GirlsCodingWithGirls (GCWG) began in 2014 when Adesola Sanusi, a senior at Warren Hills Regional High School, received a National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) award. From this, she was able to apply for a grant that would allow her to launch a program aimed at inspiring girls with computer science. Working with faculty advisor Daryl Detrick, Sanusi developed a plan to connect high school mentors with middle and elementary school students.
That first session consisted of 16 elementary school participants and eight high school mentors. Over a span of six weeks, mentors and participants met for two hours each week to go through code-based lesson plans created and taught by the high schoolers themselves. The program was so successful that, even after Sanusi graduated, it continued.
For five years now, young participants have grown and gone on to become mentors within the program, leading GCWG to its 10th session this year.
GCWG’s impact on young girls is evident in the success of its participants as they reach high school and beyond. Every mentor involved in the program that has graduated has gone on to study STEM after high school, primarily computer science and engineering. In addition, the high school’s AP Computer Science classes are currently 42% female, with many of the students having participated in GCWG in their earlier years.
“Studies show that in middle school, girls incorrectly believe they’re not as good at math and science as their male peers," explains Daryl Detrick. "So one of the things we’re trying to do is get them to overcome that hurdle and challenge themselves with vigorous math and science class through middle and high school.”
It’s not just the younger girls that are benefitting from the program. Over the years, Daryl has noticed that it also builds a lot of confidence in the high school girls. “They do all the planning and they do all the lessons. I see a lot of girls develop a lot of confidence and come out of their shells.”
During its time, GCWG has had more than 250 participants and 40 high school mentors. Moving forward, the club hopes to continue to inspire girls to get involved in computer science, particularly through outreach to elementary students, as well as continue to motivate young women to mentor and see the impact they can have on their communities.