Program empowers middle-school girls
COOS BAY – If technology is the future, sixth-grader Jade Moon plans to be ready.
Every Wednesday afternoon, Jade logs onto a laptop and joins other girls to learn the fundamentals of computer programming. Their after-school class, “Girls Who Code,” encourages middle-school girls to explore careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
“I just love the fact that I’m learning all this stuff that I can use in the future,” Jade said. “If I decide to be a programmer, I can.”
Girls Who Code is a nationwide organization that aims to close the national gender gap in technology. With nearly 90,000 girls involved nationwide, the movement challenges the antiquated notion that math and science are mostly for boys.
The local chapter meets weekly at the Boys & Girls Club in Coos Bay. It’s being supported this year by a $7,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund. Jackie Chambers, the Coquille Tribal member who administers the fund, is enthusiastic about it.
“Part of the Coquille Indian Tribe’s focus is to help our young people get an education and advance in life,” Chambers said. “We’re proud to make this contribution, and we can’t wait to see what these girls accomplish in their lives.”
The women who lead and teach the local group use words such as “empowerment” and “sisterhood” to describe the spirit of Girls Who Code. They say their goal is to break the cultural barrier that still discourages girls from pursuing STEM subjects.
The program’s website boasts of building “the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States.”
“It’s a huge tool for the future,” said Courtney DuMond, a volunteer in the local program.
On one recent Wednesday, the girls learned about using a simple programming language to create a quiz game. They also learned the real-world skill of establishing SMART goals. (SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.)
Each year the girls are asked to apply their technological lessons to a project with social implications. This year’s team chose anxiety and depression. They’ll address the subject with tools such as building a website or making a video. Thus they learn to use technology while practicing teamwork, problem solving and compassion.
“I’d like to get the people who have depression and anxiety — and sometimes both – some help,” Jade said.
About the grants
Girls Who Code was one of 13 education-related programs receiving grants from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund in 2019. The 13 grants, totaling $69,025, were part of the $261,762 being distributed to 49 organizations during the fund’s annual “Grant Week.” Since 2001, the tribal fund has distributed more than $6.4 million, using revenue from The Mill Casino-Hotel & RV Park.