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Canyon Crest Academy’s Girls Who Code group encourages females to pursue careers in ‘STEM’ fields

The Girls Who Code club at Canyon Crest Academy is in its second year. Courtesy photo
The Girls Who Code club at Canyon Crest Academy is in its second year. Courtesy photo

Seventy-four percent of girls in middle school express an interest in science, technology, engineering and math — but when it comes to choosing a college major, only .4 percent choose to pursue those paths.

Canyon Crest Academy sophomore Nithya Krishnamurthy hopes to help re-program those percentages, deciding to start in her corner of the world by founding a Girls Who Code club at CCA last year.

“Something is holding them back, and we want to put an end to that to get more girls to choose computer science,” said Nithya, an AP computer science student.

Girls Who Code is a national organization that seeks to close the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and “empower girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering.”

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, and Girls Who Code aims to reach gender parity with women filling half of these computing jobs.

To accomplish that goal, adolescent girls need to have some exposure to computer science education. Girls Who Code has set out to reach those young women and has seen clubs like CCA’s launch nationally in over 25 states.

Nithya became inspired to make a change at her school after attending a DigiGirlz conference sponsored by Microsoft the summer before her freshman year.

“I found it interesting how computers can be used to make other fields better,” Nithya said. “I thought it would be a really creative and interesting career.”

She started Girls Who Code as a freshman and was happy to see that a lot of classmates joined up. The club was successful right away winning the Cover Girl app development challenge. The club developed an app that was all about global beauty, “looking at beauty all over the world to embrace our unique heritages,” Nithya said.

Tony Mauro, CCA computer science teacher, serves as the club adviser and instructor and this year the club has grown to include 40 girls. The club meets during lunch twice a week and now even meets after school. Kelly Zhong serves as the club vice president.

“Nithya is awesome,” said Mauro, a fairly new teacher who previously worked as an electrical engineer at Qualcomm for over 20 years. “I would rank the maturity of Nithya on par with many of the engineers I’ve worked with over the years. I personally believe she will be extremely successful in whatever she pursues and look forward to helping her achieve her goals.”

The CCA Girls Who Code club’s focus this year is learning Java programming, and they will also participate in the Verizon Mobile App Challenge. Both Mauro and Nithya are proud of the interest that the club has generated.

“I think it’s really great that it’s grown so much,” Nithya said. “I never thought it would be this big.”

For more information, email teacher Tony Mauro at Tony.Mauro@sduhsd.net.