A new club encourages girls to pursue STEM studies


Advertisement for the girls who code club in the math hallway. Photo by Alyssa Johnson

Alyssa Johnson, Writer

Highland High School’s newest club is one bound to make an impact. Girls Who Code focuses on women in STEM jobs, particularly computer sciences. The ability to experience coding could act as a pathway towards more women pursuing jobs in the still mainly male dominated STEM professions. 


“I just recently started teaching computer science classes, this is my first year teaching them, so that initially spurred me to start thinking about the fact that there’s a big inequity in the computer science field or coding, as you would say, amongst girls and amongst minorities,” said club advisor Tracie Mezera-Juarez. “In my intro class, I only have one girl and she actually just transferred from Munster, so for half the year I had zero girls in my computer science class. That’s not just unique to Highland. That’s happening everywhere across the world and, so that’s what kind of spurred my interest to try and think of a way that we could get more girls interested in coding.”


Girls Who Code encourages girls to experience and learn new skills, as well as strengthen existing ones within coding. This allows the students to complete activities they may otherwise not get the opportunity to. It also is a possibility for an interest in computer science to take root.


“I think that the more we can expose students to different possible interests, then they’ll have a better idea of what they want to pursue once they leave the building. Some people, if they never have an opportunity to join a club like this or take a class like computer science,  they have no idea they could be excellent at it or it could be a way they can show their creativity and they just never knew about it, so the more offerings like this, it makes Highland students able to become more well rounded individuals,” said Mezera-Juarez. Being apart of the organization Girls Who Code helps highlight women in computer sciences and allows a structure for a creative club. 


Merzera-Juarez said, “Girls Who Code is getting to be a pretty big organization, so once we start, we’ll be joining like 90,000 other members of Girls Who Code clubs. The organization itself has a really  good curriculum and has a website set up. We actually start having our own website where we’re going to post the projects and things that we’re working on, so it’s very well organized, it’s not just stuff that I’m making up, but it’s stuff that’s been kind of tailored to the curriculum. There’s a part where there’s always a spotlight on a woman that’s in the computer science field, so there’s either a video or story about that person. There’s time to kind of build and learn your own coding skills, and then you have time to build community with the other girls who are in there, or the other members that are in there and working on a common project. It’s a little bit of all of that. “


For students with a previous understanding of code, polishing their skills and learning more is greatly looked forward to.


Senior Brianna Dewey said, “I’ve always been interested in STEM ever since I was a little kid and I did a coding class over the summer. It was like a two week boot camp at PNW and it was cool, but I didn’t learn as much as I wanted to, so when I found out that Girls Who Code was a club here at Highland, I thought it was really cool. And even though I’m super busy already, I wanted to do it regardless. I just wanna have a better understanding of why we code and some of the uses for code. Like, since I’m going to college soon and going to take quote unquote actual coding classes I hope to at least understand a little bit more code and polish any skills that I already have.”


For those new to coding and computer sciences, they’re also looking forward to learning new skills.


“The reason why I joined Girls Who Code club is because I wanted to expand my horizons, and since technology is the way of the future, I figured it would be nice to give it a try. I also wanted to join a sisterhood of advocates supporting more girls in the field of coding and engineering,” said sophomore Celeste Enrique. “It feels great to have an opportunity to learn about code. I never really had thought coding to be that interesting before, but I’m willing to learn. It’s absolutely wonderful that there is a club at Highland High School that incorporates both coding and feminism. I think learning to code is a wonderful opportunity, and learning to do so could broaden your horizons for the future.”


Freshman Melanie Barber said, “I joined girls who code because I’ve always wanted to learn to code and I thought this club would also be an amazing environment to learn in with other girls like me. I want to learn how software works and different coding languages for making games. I feel really excited about learning to code because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I’m hopeful that I’ll expand my coding skills even more.”


Regardless of interests or plans for the future, joining a coding club can be helpful in many ways. Not only can social, teamwork, and technological skills be boosted, but it may be useful later on. 


Dewey said, “I’m actually going to go to St.Mary’s and study physics and electrical engineering, but to go along with the hardware of electrical engineering I was hoping to learn a little bit of software engineering, which is directly in line with coding.”


Enrique said, “Sadly,no I don’t plan on having a career that has to do with Coding and or Engineering. Mathematics isn’t really up my alleyway. Yet, I am open to the ways that coding could advance the medical field.”


No previous skills are required to start coding with Girls Who Code. 


“Coding is a way to basically create whatever you want through technology. Coding is giving step by step instructions to a computer to make it do what you want or create what you want, so if you come to the club you’ll get to see a lot of different women who are doing things very creatively with code that you may not even think of, like combining dance and code or creating video games or things like that, so just knowing that if you’re able to give a set of instructions you would be able to code,” Merzera-Juarez said. 


Anyone who is an advocate for women in computer sciences is welcome to join the Girls Who Code club. Meetings are Thursdays after school in the math hallway, room 316. Bring a charged iPad.