For Immediate Release December 9, 2015
Contact: Cindy Thornton
WFA Girls of Promise® Tech Summit at Governor’s Mansion attended by 150 Arkansas girls from 40 schools.
(Little Rock, Ark.) – The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas sponsored the first Girls of Promise® Coding Summit at the Governor’s Mansion today as part of the #ARKidsCanCode initiative. The summit was attended by more than 150 6th through 12th grade girls from 40 schools across the state Arkansas. Katherine Prewitt, the President of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, welcomed the crowd of girls, chaperones, and champions, sharing that the Women’s Foundation’s mission is to engage people to promote women and girls in Arkansas, so they can realize and achieve their full potential. “The Girls of Promise® Coding Summit,” Katherine stated, “exemplifies the WFA mission.”
The emcee for the event was Representative Warwick Sabin. Mr. Sabin, an Arkansas Representative and the Executive Director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, said “this is my favorite part of my job – working with the youth of Arkansas to encourage them to become engaged in technology.” Sabin shared his hopes for the upcoming generation to not even consider the concept of limiting one’s educational or career dreams because of one’s gender.
Governor Asa Hutchinson and his wife Susan were present to welcome the girls to the event. The Governor spoke about his bi-partisan initiative to require computer science in all high schools in Arkansas, the first in the nation – and passed during the last General Assembly. He also encouraged the young women to seriously consider pursuing technical professions in the future because they are high paying jobs, which would benefit not only themselves but also their communities.
Code.Org COO, Cameron Wilson, presented Little Rock School District’s Western Hills Elementary School principal Teresa Richardson and teacher Sarah burns, Arkansas winner of the Code.org contest, with a $10,000 check to pay for computer equipment for one classroom. Code.Org also provided an inspiring video on the importance of women and girls learning to code and their Star Wars module was used by the girls during the hands-on coding lesson.
The Girls of Promise® Coding Summit also served as the launch of WFA’s Girls of Promise® Tech Contest sponsored by AT&T. Jan Collier, Vice President and General Manager of Arkansas/Oklahoma AT&T Mobility, introduced the contest and explained that her organization is part of such initiatives because, while women make up 49% of the workforce overall, only 25% of the technical workforce is female. Encouraging more women and girls to become technical professionals ensures that companies like AT&T can meet their workforce needs.
A diverse group of women served as instructors and mentors for the “Hour of Code” portion of the event, including Sarah Daigle, Alia Borroho, Joyce Grippi, Tara Dryer, Susan Smith, and Amanda Potter Cole. Daigle kicked the coding portion of the program off by providing the girls with insights into the types of technical jobs available to women in Arkansas. She said that women in technical jobs tended to focus on solutions that help communities and individuals, which is incredibly beneficial to the overall economy and therefore the state. Borroho provided the girls with some tips and tricks to get them started, which led into the Hour of Code. More information about the mentors can be found on girlsofpromise.org/codingsummit.
Amanda Potter Cole, the event Chairperson, closed the summit with instructions on how to get started on a submission for WFA’s Girls of Promise® Tech Contest. The contest, open to all 6th through 12th grade Arkansas girls, is designed to help girls “create tech for good.” Applicants will create or build upon a technical product – an app, website, computer program, 3D printer template, or anything else tech – for a philanthropic purpose. Submissions, due February 15, must either directly benefit or provide a service on behalf of a nonprofit organization, church, school or government agency. Finalists will present their submissions at the Girls of Promise® conference in Little Rock on March 10-11, 2016. Conference participants – 8th grade Arkansas girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math – will vote on the grand prize winner, who will receive an Apple MacBook Pro. The runners-up will all receive tech prizes as well. Full details are available at girlsofpromise.org/techcontest.
The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) is the only statewide foundation that focuses solely on women and girls in Arkansas. Their Girls of Promise® program is proven to encourage girls to continue pursuing higher-level science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses past eighth grade, with goals towards careers in these fields.
Since 1999, more than 5,000 eighth-grade girls have been introduced to women with careers in STEM fields, participated in hands-on learning activities, and met other girls passionate about learning through their participation at Girls of Promise® conferences. Learn more: girlsofpromise.org
Amanda is a WFA board member and founder of AMP•SEE Ideas. When not providing freelance communications and project management services to small businesses and nonprofits, she may be found promoting livable urban design, speaking up for equality & education, wandering about with her camera, or experimenting with local foods.