When you’re a computer programmer you are used to being the only woman in the department, with only 21% of computer programmers being women. A few years ago, when I graduated from college, I was asked to learn to code. This was a scary task as it’s a career I never saw for myself before, but one that I later found fit my interests really well and that I had the skills for. I enjoy the problem solving, but was never introduced to this career before. A lot of girls lose interest in STEM fields, particularly tech, in middle school. This is when girls start to think of tech as boring and lacking community impact. To help solve this problem, Lincoln, Nebraska, along with many other cities, has chapters of Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit. I decided to start volunteering with this program, but found that it wasn’t serving our community well. You see, our community wanted to aide in our development. Leadership organizations wanted to partner with us to help us encourage leadership skills, and community members wanted to write curriculum that was better suited to our community and our girls’ interests. Therefore, I, along with a few volunteers, decided to rebrand and create our own nonprofit – Girls Code Lincoln.
Girls Code Lincoln strives to ignite passion for technology and leadership in young girls through code education. Our clubs are multi-week, targeted at fourth to ninth grade girls, and are 100% free and volunteer run, to encourage diversity and collaboration. Partnering with community organizations helps our girls see that their community is invested in them, and makes our programming more accessible to a wider range of girls. Our curriculum is made to be flexible,
and caters to the specific interests of the girls we work with each semester, working on both hardware and software projects that are fun for children and impactful for our community. A large part of our programming focuses on building confidence so that girls don’t fear failure, as well as build their resilience to keep trying when times are tough. These skills are useful to girls in every field, and we have found technology to be an interesting and meaningful tool to teach these important lessons.
We are so thankful to the support of the Mentors Foundation for believing in us and our mission to help open the world of technology to young girls in Lincoln! Since receiving the grant, we’ve been able to form our own 501c3, and grow the number of girls we cater to! We have introduced day-long workshops into our curriculum so that we can involve more girls from the community into our club, even if they aren’t able to join us for the whole semester. We are starting our workshops with a light-up beanie workshop – one that blends the need for technology to be fun with the Nebraska requirement for warm clothing. We’ve formalized our Board of Directors and are in the process of recruiting new board members. As a 501c3, we can now participate in non-profit programs such as “Give To Lincoln Day”, and benefit from our own ownership and national programs and grants intended for non-profits. This status will help us accelerate our growth.
Before receiving our grant, we were in the process of making a very tough decision – to run our clubs for another semester, or to stop so we could ensure future growth by focusing our efforts on fundraising. Money was tight, and we were concerned. Thanks to the Mentors Grant, our board members are able to focus their time and effort to other areas of growth, not just fundraising. Now, without a gap in our programming, our girls are able to learn in club, and our volunteers are able to build partnerships, work on our website, write curriculum and build the organization with a strong foundation. We are able to truly grow. Thank you so much, Mentors Foundation! We’re so excited to run this program with your support, and so thankful for all of the guidance and mentorship you’ve provided to us.