In the beginning...April 2011 seems just like yesterday when myself and an amazing group of THREE (yes you read that correctly) friends pooled together our time and personal resources to plant the seeds for BlackGirlsCODE. Our beginnings as a non-profit organization focusing on introducing girls of color to careers in technology through classes in computer programming were both humble and sincere. Our team included myself; an electrical engineer by trade, a business colleague and friend from the biotech field, another friend and business associate with a science background who was once a middle school teacher, and a lone Code for America Fellow our only "true" coder who we relied on immensely! But although we may have been lacking in numbers and been slight newbies in the coding skills, we made up for these deficiencies with our passion and dedication. We all shared a passion to expose girls of color to the many opportunities which abound in STEM fields especially technology. To be honest we found it unbelievable that when we launched BlackGirlsCODE there were no other organizations anywhere focused solely on training girls of color about computer programming and technology. We were the first and we wanted to expose girls from underrepresented communities to the opportunities which existed just a few miles away from our Bayview-Hunter's Point classroom in Silicon Valley. We were determined to make it happen so we got to work and bootstrapped our first pilot class in October. When I look back on those early days I truly believe we were moved by passion and driven by vision. We planned for only 6 girls in our pilot class and saw our numbers grow three times that during our first few classes. The girls kept coming and amazed us with their ability to grasp the complex topics. They literally took to programming as they say "like fish to water". They inspired us to keep going.
We have been truly blessed to see our program, started from such humble beginnings, continue to grow and expand. We launched a pilot class in Chicago in May and saw our June "Build a Webpage in a Day Class" in San Francisco sell out in just 2 weeks with more than 50 girls and a huge waiting list. We were honored to be selected as a Google RISE recipient in 2012 and were very lucky that progressive companies and organizations such as ThoughtWorks and others, saw the potential in our work and have offered their resources and facilities to help us grow. We are truly grateful for this support as well as the many volunteers who volunteer their time as mentors in our classes in multiple cities. But there is still so much work to do. We are still primarily operated as a grassroots organization and although we continue to see exponential growth and demand for our programs we have struggled to secure the funding we need to support our girls. We launched our 2012 Summer of Code to serve two parallel goals: to meet the growing demand for our unique and disruptive program model by expanding beyond the San Francisco bay area and teaching more than 300 students the basics of computer programming; and to engage our base of supporters from the GROUND UP to help create meaningful change for girls in our society. As the founder of BlackGirlsCODE I continue to be encouraged each and every day by the girls we serve and steadfastly believe that we have truly MADE A DIFFERENCE. There are certainly many worthy causes in the "sea of turmoil" in our world today. Yet I believe strongly that it is both important and necessary that we invest in our youth and our girls. These young bright minds are a precious and undervalued commodity that we must continue to cultivate and grow. They are the future. They are the hope. They are the DREAMS OF TOMORROW.
Introducing: Nailah a 7 year old member of the BlackGirlsCode who attended the KidsRuby programming class at Pivotal Labs in San Francisco as part of annual Golden Gate Ruby Conference on September 16-17, 2011 at UCSF Mission Bay. Below is her blog!
Hi my name is Nailah and I am 7 years old. I was excited to attend my first KidsRuby class. I really didn't know what to expect but I wanted to learn how to write my very own game.
The volunteers really made it easy to get started. I plugged a USB into my computer, clicked on it, and then the program was installed. The teacher helped us create a cool application with different colors that we were able to explore on our own. He also showed us how to write a program to help with our homework.
This was my very first time learning how to program and I had a really fun experience. The one thing I liked the least about my KidsRuby class was all that typing! (Editor Side Note: smile) What I liked the most was that I could learn to hack my homework! I don’t want to do more of that. So I have been trying to hack my homework on my own!
(A 7 year old budding Ninja Coder)
Last Sunday I attended a KidsRuby class in San Francisco which was part of the Golden Gate Ruby Conference. A few other girls from our BlackGirlsCode group all came to the class with our parents and laptops ready to learn coding with Ruby. We first downloaded the rubykidsinstaller from a small thumb drive and after that started to work. When we were working if we got an answer right our teacher would throw us a piece of candy. And he ominously warned us; “he was no baseball player!” We learned to do a bunch of cool stuff like, making it hack our homework, and learning how to create an etch-a-sketch like application.
Overall the KidsRuby class was really fun, interesting, and informative. One of the Ruby volunteers who was helping us in the class gave me a lot of great tips which helped me think about what was said in the class more and figure out how to do more things with the stuff we were learning. Coincidently he had a daughter with the same name! He helped me have fun in the class! Our KidsRuby instructor also made learning to program fun and I really enjoyed being able to win candy AND learn to code. I got so much candy that after a while the teacher asked somebody else to answer a question! I saved all the candy till the end and gobbled it all down.
I really liked the KidsRuby class because; it wasn't too hard to understand. I also liked the class because it was really fun, and it was really helpful to learn about how to operate ruby a little bit, so I could start on my way to mastering Ruby.
(A 12 year old budding Ninja Coder)