Senior creates new chapter of Girls Who Code at school

Photo+by+Kate+Hill

Photo by Kate Hill

At a Girls Who Code meeting, Senior Kajal Patel teaches members a new skill in coding in a C-wing computer lab.

Kate Hill, Sports Editor

  Last spring at MHS, Senior Kajal Patel created a new chapter of Girls Who Code (GWC), an organization with “a mission to close the gender gap in tech” by promoting clubs as free programs where “girls and non-binary students [could] join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models using computer science to change the world,” as stated on its website.

   Patel created this new chapter because of the concern that “next-to-no girls [were] at all in the coding clubs and computer science classes, both in MHS and out,” she said.

   “There were girls at MHS who were interested in coding or computer science in general, but as some of them told me, the male-dominated environment made them a bit uncomfortable,” said Patel, who didn’t “want any girl to have to stifle her interests because of the people around her — a factor [a girl] cannot control.” 

   Patel ultimately wanted this club to help these girls finally learn to code “in an environment that supports instead of suffocat[es] them.”

   “They could also meet like-minded girls so that they understand that no matter how much they may feel like it, they are truly not alone,” Patel said. 

   One member of GWC, Junior Jill Kennicott, decided to join GWC since she has been involved in the school’s Robotics Club for a very long time.

   “Coding has always been an aspect I have been able to be a part of, so I wanted to join GWC to learn how to code, and it is also an interest of mine to learn how to code,” Kennicott said, who also credits her dad with inspiring her to join. 

   “[My dad] has always wanted me to learn how to code, and now [that] coding is an option for me, to do that, so my dad has really pushed me to focus and pursue STEM and engineering,” Kennicott said.

   Besides GWC and Robotics Club, the school also has the club offering of Byte Club, which promotes computer science and programming. Patel is a member of both Byte Club and GWC, and while both Byte Club and GWC are focused on coding, Patel explained that GWC meetings differ from Byte Club meetings since they start with a sisterhood activity.

   “These activities range widely, and some of them have a computer science underlying, like using conditional statements to figure out how Buzzfeed gets answers to their (in)famous quizzes, while others are meant to learn about life skills, such as [a] communication activity,” Patel said.

   The club also might do a “Women in Tech” activity, in which the members watch a video and discuss how they can learn from the lives of famous women who influenced computer science greatly.

   The rest of the meeting, Patel explained, is used for coding with the coding activities often led by Patel herself.

   “While Girls Who Code does provide us with the resources to do [coding], the girls prefer that I teach them myself, which I love doing,” Patel said.

   Something from Byte Club that Patel has carried over to GWC is the understanding that it is “extremely important to understand why code works rather than just what to type,” so she makes sure “to teach more pure-computer science principles like binary, storage within a computer and how computers actually read code,” she said.

   The sponsor of GWC is Science Teacher Priyank Srivastava, who also sponsors Byte Club. He said, “Both clubs are dedicated to creating a safe space for learning how to code, doing projects and competing, whether you have past experience or not.”

   Srivastava has had the opportunity to observe Patel in both clubs, and  he said he sees that “Kajal is more open and comfortable in GWC” while also stating that it is “very inspiring to see Kajal teach so passionately coding to her own peers.” 

   As a member of GWC, Junior Leila Moon chose to join because many of her friends were interested in joining the club, and she said she felt coding would be a useful skill in the future.

   “Many of my friends also like coding, and I was wondering what the excitement was about, especially because I’m not generally a tech-oriented person,” Moon said.

   Patel said one of her goals for the club is to help members see how “coding is a skill that transcends just computer science.”

   “Whether it be in the medical field, aerospace, psychology, economics, or something else, knowing how to code and learning the skills associated with coding is imperative,” said Patel, who added, “Having an environment like Girls Who Code with girls who are just like you and want to support you is truly invaluable.”

   Patel’s passion is what Moon said encouraged her to try joining after hearing Patel advertise the club in the Literacy Center last year: [Patel’s] enthusiasm about it definitely made me interested in seeing what coding was about.”

   If interested in more information about GWC, contact Patel at [email protected]