Ana H - 7:30 - SoCal Winner, National Runner UP - 11th grade
Diana S - 10:25 - So Cal Winner - 12th grade
Karina C - 12:00 - National Winner - 12th grade
Lilly Kate D: 13:00 - So Cal Winner, 10th grade
Leslie Aaronson - Educator Award - 19:40
(we also had a runner up - Carolina M, but she was not there to claim her award).
On Tuesday, May 20th in Newport, California, five of my students and I put Foshay’s Tech Academy on the map as a place where high school students are doing amazing things with computer science. We received the Aspirations in Computing award from the National Center for Women and Informational Technology. We were lucky that the awards ceremony happened to be hosted at NCWIT’s annual Summit. This meant there were more people present for the ceremony and among the attendees were people from AT&T, Google, Apple, universities around the country and more. The esteemed audience only elevated the thrill and feeling of accomplishment my students and I felt.
The students had completed the Aspirations application back in October when David Bernier, from UCLA’s Exploring Computer Science, came to our school determined that there would be winners from LAUSD this year and he thought my students had a great shot. Eleven girls showed up for the workshop he hosted, and nine actually completed and turned in the application on time. The winners were announced in December - and five girls from Foshay Tech Academy were recognized -one national winner, one national runner up; 4 Southern California winners and one Southern California runner up. In February I also learned that I received the Southern California Educator Award - based entirely on the success of my students.
We are a Tech Academy in South Los Angeles at a public K-12 school. The high school is 750 students and every 10-12th grader is in one of three career academies - Finance, Health, or Tech. It was the first time anyone from Foshay applied for the Aspirations in Computing honor. The students and I were thrilled with our success. They learned that success is about showing up. Success is about following through.
We returned to school following the event and told the others about the amazing awards ceremony - which concluded with every winner getting a surprise iPad Mini donated from Apple, and more than 10 food trucks of gourmet food for the celebration. I had the winners share their experience with their classmates and I saw at least 10 other students turn to each other and say “I will apply next year.” Success all around.
I asked the girls about their experience writing the application, receiving the award and hearing their names called at the ceremony and this is what they had to say:
Lilly D, Class of 2016, Southern California Winner:
“Despite the fact that I am in 10th grade - it was an opportunity and I went for it. I was thinking that maybe I would get to be a runner up - instead I was a Southern California winner. I think they chose me because of my HAM radio license that I got in 7th grade, my participation in the SMASH program and my experience in the Tech Academy. When I got the email I was beyond thrilled. It was my first award in Technology - it was great to be recognized.
When I heard my name I was so proud to walk the stairs with the other Foshay girls especially because I was the youngest. I felt proud and accomplished that if they can do it, then I can too. That I can do anything. There were students from private schools and good neighborhoods there. People have stereotypes about south LA - that we will do minimum wage jobs, that we don’t belong in computer science...having us there with 6 awards helped show the people in the audience that we are breaking down stereotypes and showing what we are capable of doing anything.”
Karina C, Class of 2014, National and Southern California Winner:
Receiving this award has my confidence. In a way the ceremony at Newport felt more special than the national award ceremony because there were others from my school there and I won alongside my teacher. The ceremony was inspiring and it committed even more strongly to be involved in computer science when I attend college. I saw people at NCWIT who are successful in computer and I felt their encouragement that this is a place where I can belong. I know that this is what I want to study and where I want to be. It is amazing to see and be recognized for all that I accomplished in four years and I can’t wait for others from my school to also go out and win the national award.
Diana S Class of 2014, Southern California Winner:
My teacher told me to apply but I thought I was not as impressive compared to other candidates. However, the judges must have been impressed since I won the Aspirations in Computing in Southern California. I just talked about my school work in my Tech Academy class - the Flash projects we did, the challenges with the LEGO Mindstorm robots and I spoke about my interest in connecting business with computer science to help students grow and be exposed to technology. At the awards ceremony I amazed that I was a winner with these other students. The girls who won runner ups sounded so impressive, it was hard to be believe I was a winner. I was so inspired at the event to think about continuing to work in computer science. The speakers continued to inspire me that computer science is a field I want to pursue. It was even cooler having so many of my classmates there from our little unknown school. It felt like by the end we were a school everyone was talking about.
Leslie Aaronson, Educator Award:
As for me, the entire process was an amazing experience. The pride I feel for my students who were able to accomplish so much on their first attempt with this application is just beyond any expectation I had. I also loved being at the Summit where I met professors and people from Google, Apple and other high profile companies. I was just humbled with the interest they took in me and my program when I told them that I run a Technology Academy in South Los Angeles. I have first hand experience with how to successfully engage students in computer science and understand the difficult balance between delivering content and encouragement. The need to have the students try and fail on their own terms but also set parameters to measure success. It was an honor to be included, be respected and to be rewarded.