Student Voices

Greenwich High School’s Girls Who Code Club

Olivia Schnur|August 31, 2020

Greenwich High School boasts upwards of 150 clubs, many of which engage in the community as well as outside. I’ve been a part of the Girls Who Code club since freshman year, and believe it has become a staple club at the school. Despite its name, the club has no prerequisites concerning knowledge of programming languages or experience. There are a number of skill levels represented and the club functions as both a collaborative environment for building apps as well as a student-led class to teach inexperienced members the basics of programming languages like javascript, HTML, and CSS. Four years ago, the club earned $20,000 from the Verizon App Challenge with the winning application “Under My Wing.” The app centers around safety, especially that of women when in uncomfortable and potentially violent situations. The app features resources like self-defense videos, a fake phone call feature, and emergency contact buttons. Since then, the club has continued brainstorming and building new apps and teaching girls at GHS with approximately ten club members and growing. We were also able to take a field trip to the Google Offices in New York in November 2018! This summer we worked on an app to be available on all platforms for TAG’s Safe Rides program, giving teenagers an easier application to reach the organization and store information. We plan to enter it into the Congressional App Challenge this fall, and will be pursuing a website. m

Aside from intra-club activities and projects, GWC runs a Stem-for-All program that has been successful in engaging younger students at Riverside elementary school. This year we have reached out to a few other schools and will be offering lessons over Zoom for all who are interested.

As we approach the new school year, we designed new sweatshirts for members through a local shop (@simplysidneydesigns) and have started actively using our Instagram page, @ghsgirlswhocode. We hope to bring in new students this year despite obvious changes due to coronavirus and will continue meeting on Zoom until circumstances change. As a co-president for the 2020-2021 school year, I am surrounded by extremely driven, smart young women. Below are some responses from other leadership, Avery Byrne (senior and the vice president of Girls Who Code), as well as Anna Weiksner (junior and a co-president of Girls Who Code).

Why did you join Girls Who Code?

Avery: I attended a summer camp before high school for programming, and decided to join the club once I got to GHS. After a year of membership, I was urged by my math teacher to pursue the classes available and became more ingrained in the community. I think that it’s very interesting how you can take your own ideas and turn them into something with programming, and I’ve grown my knowledge of the field and involvement in the club for the past few years.

What are your biggest goals for this year?

Anna: I would love to finish our Safe Rides App. It would be great to say we all learned React Native and were able to put together a few apps, websites, etc. throughout this year. I also want to make the club even more active. Sometimes our meetings are more social than productive, which is fun, but we definitely want to find a good balance.

How would you describe the community?

Avery: The community is inspiring but also friendly. It’s a good place to be a freshman, and to have approachable club leaders as we do. It’s welcoming. You can come in not knowing anything, and everyone is willing and excited to help you learn.

Anna: The club at the high school is very supportive, social, and we all learn from each other. I think it’s enjoyable for everyone, which is incredibly important for something as frustrating as coding.

How was the club impacted by coronavirus and how did you adapt to the situation?

Anna: It was definitely harder to set meetings, but a lot of that responsibility fell onto previous leadership. When we stepped into our positions, we made the decision to meet during the summer. The club has grown a lot, and this is our first year when we were active in the summer. We’ve had some great meetings, some ok ones, a good mix during a tough time. It’s nice to have the club as a constant. Wednesday’s at 8am were our thing, it was set. Even so, I like our schedule now, and I like seeing everyone even if it’s in a different format.

Girls Who Code has played a major role in my high school experience. I urge all underclassmen who I meet to join as it has given me a strong community in a male-dominated field. I walked into my first programming class as a freshman and found out I was one of the only girls in the class. My Wednesday morning meetings with this lovely group of young women have given me support throughout the past three years, and I’m proud of the work we’re doing.

Author: Olivia Schnur

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