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4-H and Girls Who Code partner in NY counties

Tags: 4-H,   Alexa Maille,   children,   partnership,   STEM,   technology,  

Reshma Saujani speaking into a microphone at a podium

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, delivers the 2015 Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service Lecture.

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

When Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, delivered the Iscol Lecture at Cornell in 2015, Cooperative Extension Associate Alexa Maille was inspired.

Saujani – an attorney, political activist, and fundraiser – founded Girls Who Code to close the gender gap in technology. The nationwide non-profit organization designs and helps to deliver programs to inspire, equip and educate girls with computing skills. Since its founding in 2012, it has reached more than 90,000 girls in all 50 states.

Among those are a group of about 10 girls in New York’s Clinton County 4-H Program. After listening to Saujani’s talk at Cornell, Maille – a Science Math Engineering and Technology (STEM) specialist with 4-H contacted Saujani to explore partnership opportunities.

“I liked that the program wove together programming and community change,” she said. “I was interested in starting a coding project with 4-H – one with projects that help youth develop skills for life and careers. Partnering with Girls Who Code was an impactful way to do that – to inspire girls to learn and lead.”

Then Maille worked with 4-H educators around the state to explore how the Girls Who Code curriculum  would work for NYS 4-H. As a result, 4-H educators in Clinton and Cortland counties started Girls Who Code clubs.

four girls sitting around a table working on laptops

Girls coding through CCE Clinton County's Girls Who Code program

Ann Chiarenzelli, 4-H STEM Educator in Clinton County and a volunteer with AmeriCorps, jumped at the chance. “I instantly wanted to bring this program to the Clinton County to empower young girls, not only in computer science, however, also to allow them to explore their passions unrestricted by gender or anything else,” she said.

The Clinton County's chapter of Girls Who Code is a partnership between 4-H, Pathways in Technology Early College, Plattsburgh Public Library and the State University of New York Plattsburgh's Computer Science Department. A total of 10 girls come to the weekly meetings to learn how the concepts of loops, variables, conditionals and functions that form the basis for all programming languages.

“Our chapter is unique because computer science students from SUNY Plattsburgh volunteer each week as mentors to our participants,” Chiarenzelli said. “The members are currently working on community service projects aimed at raising awareness for animal shelters and rural homelessness by coding, from scratch, websites on each. We are all super excited to see the passion and hard work these girls bring to the computer science world!”

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