Andrea Chaves’ Adventure on Becoming a Champion of Change
AiC Community Member Brittany Greve, along with fellow AiC Community Members Noran Omar and Angela Diep from The Young Women's Leadership School (TYWLS) of Astoria, joined Andrea Chaves, their teacher and 2015 NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Award winner, for a special ceremony at the White House honoring Andrea as a Champion of Change for Computer Science Education. Brittany shared their experience at the White House with us.
Our mission as Tech Crew, the student-run class at TYWLS, is to influence the lives of young women, as well as communicate to them that no matter what field they want to study in or whatever interests they may have, with the use of coding, they are stepping up their talent and knowledge to a whole ‘nother level. As Tech Crew, we strive to educate and encourage young women to learn about STEM. We have a number of departments that include many different aspects of technology such as coders, journalists, filmmakers, web designers, project managers, and graphic designers. Although these fields may seem different, they all can be interlaced with the knowledge of coding. It only takes one girl to make a difference, which is why we intend to inspire one girl at a time to create something that will change the world. When we heard about the White House Champions of Change nominations, we decided to nominate the one person that started this all, which is our teacher, Andrea Chaves.
Andrea took the three of us with her to attend the award ceremony at the White House. During the first day of the awards ceremony, the nine Champions of Change award winners including Andreas Stefik, Angelica Willis, Jane Margolis, Grace Clark, James Forde, Christina Li, Karen North, Cordell Carter II, and our own teacher, Andrea Chaves, shared their experiences and initiatives about computer science.
The award winners then had the opportunity to share their advice and stories with policymakers within the government such as Valerie Jarrett, the senior advisor to the president and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs; Lisa Gelobter, the chief digital service officer for U.S. Digital Service; R. David Edelman, the special assistant to the president for economic and technology policy; Janice Cuny, the program director for Computing Education for the National Science Foundation; John King, the acting secretary of education for the U.S. Department of Education; and Megan Smith, the U.S.’ chief technology officer. The Champions of Change spoke about how they have influenced the world of computer science by establishing different programs that serve as a purpose to teach younger students how to code. Other award recipients spoke about their experiences successfully teaching computer science to students.
As we sat in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, we also had the opportunity to exchange our own experiences in STEM and how this movement had successfully impacted our community. To us, being apart of this event was truly a heartwarming and inspiring event. Being able to share our own stories with Megan Smith made it a truly unforgettable experience.
Although our entire trip to the White House was both inspirational and engaging, there was a moment that we all truly cherished as a group, and that was the chance to further share our stories. When we were brought to the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House to meet with the U.S. Chief of Technology Megan, she was kind enough to invite not only the Champions of Change to sit at the head table, but also us, the students, to share our story as a whole. What made this meeting so influential to our whole trip was how the four of us had the opportunity to share our accomplishments with her and the rest of the Champions of Change. As our mentor always tells us, we never do anything alone, but rather work together in order to finish one goal. Therefore, we were all able to share a piece of our work and add onto each other’s thoughts in order to convey just how powerful we all are together.
It’s been four years since Andrea first brought computer science into our school. We have always assumed that teachers around the nation were working on integrating technology into the classroom, but in reality not that many were truly working to integrate STEM into schools. Throughout our journey, and especially during the White House event, we discovered how essential it is that we share our stories. As innovators, it is essential that we connect with people who are interested in working to further this movement of integrating STEM into a traditional school curriculum. What we have been doing and what we are currently working on are just pieces of the fundamental foundation of growing STEM in our own school. In order for us to grow and influence others around us, we have discovered that we must come together, share our stories and understand what is the next step. As a determined group of technological leaders that desire a change to be brought to the community, we have noticed that there is always more work to be done and more to learn, which reflects the ever-changing STEM fields.
There is a prominent gender gap in STEM fields, especially in computer science. Not only should every child get the chance to learn computer science, but they should also be inspired to continue learning it as well because it is an essential skill to have in an array of different jobs. Studies show that females tend to have the motivation to do computer science when declaring a major, yet do not continue on. As a society, we need to inspire girls to participate in the STEM field and make them realize that they are essential to it. At the school we attend, TYWLS, our main mission as Tech Crew is to enhance the confidence in our girls to best prepare them for entering an IT field.
Brittany is a senior at TYWLS of Astoria in New York City and a project manager for Tech Crew, a student-run class. As a project manager, she keeps the team organized and offers support to any department that needs help in accomplishing a goal. Being apart of Tech Crew has inspired Brittany to explore more in-depth STEM fields.
*While at the White House, Andrea Chaves and her students were notified that both Brittany Greve and Angela Diep were named NCWIT AiC runners-up, and that Noran Omar had received the notification for the NCWIT New York AiC Affiliate Award. Over the course of the day, they heard the news that 13 girls were named runners-up, four of which were from TYWLS.