Over the last two months, Ambassadors for Teach for America and Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg, SC, have hosted INTech technology day camps for middle school girls in three cities.
INTech was founded by Khalia Braswell and is meant to inspire girls to join the technology industry.
The mission statement for the camps reads, “The mission of the INTech Camp is to INFORM and INSPIRE girls to INNOVATE in the technology field. Though women make up only 26% of this space, they have made immeasurable contributions to the industry. It is our goal to expose young girls to the field at an impressionable age to increase this percentage.”
Braswell worked as an Apple intern, and during her time at the company, she noticed that there were not many women in her industry. Since making this discovery, she has dedicated herself to finding ways to diversify the industry. Still in school to finish a Computer Science degree at North Carolina, she works as a freelance web designer in addition to the INTech program.
“I wanted to expose more girls at an early age to technology,” Braswell said of the INTech camp. “I wanted to show the camp scholars that they can combine technology with whatever they are passionate about to create a career.”
At the camp, the young girls were introduced to coding, web design, and HTML development, along with hearing from a panel of female scholars from the industry. The panelists were employees of Red Ventures in Charlotte, NC.
“For me, when I was the girls’ age, I didn’t see many women in tech and I didn’t think it was an option as a career,” said Shekinah Smith, a panelist and junior front-end web developer.
Smith added that she wanted to show the middle school girls that being in the industry and being female is a reality, and they can make it happen. The principal of Mellichamp Elementary School, Hayward Jean, also said that the goals of the camp aligned well with what his school tried to teach its students.
“The Mellichamp vision is to cause all students to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set about their education. INTech instills an entrepreneurial spirit inside of each young lady,” Jean said.
He continued, “The experience today is electrifying and empowering for our students and has inspired me to go deeper in giving all my students access to opportunities that will broaden their educational experiences.”
“The technology industry is in great need of more diversity,” says Ola Danilina, CEO/Founder, PMBC Group. “There are many other organizations who are encouraging females to jump into engineering. One of our clients, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is leading the way. In efforts to drive more females and minorities into engineering, USC led a global crowdsourcing competition, “The Next MacGvyer,” aimed at developing the first great TV show with a female engineer lead. We sourced the Dean and faculty for expert commentary on top engineering and women in tech stories to gain placements in the top national press such as FOX News, Popular Science, Washington Post, Huffington Post, CBS Los Angeles, ABC Action News, BBC and more.”
This year’s camps focused on both women and minorities and were held in the Kingstree, Walterboro, and Orangeburg areas of South Carolina. The camps were attended by many Teach for America Ambassadors in order to show support for the program.
“The tech camps were organized in partnership with Teach For America South Carolina and INTech around six months ago, with the goal of bringing new opportunities in STEM and computer science to rural communities throughout South Carolina,” Teach for America alumna Jaishri Shankar said.
Alexis Gaetano is an eighth grader at Sedgefield Middle School. She said she would like to develop apps in the future and explained that the camp showed her why the technology industry needs women. She added, “I think it will help to have more points of view in the technology industry.”
Raven Smith is a fifth grader at Mellichamp and added, “Girls can do what boys can do and that I can go to a place with a whole bunch of males and work with them.” She plans to become a game and website developer.
Next year, the INTech camps will expand into Georgia and Virginia, bringing the experience to even more students.