Little Silver:In early April, Red Bank Regional (RBR) was informed that six of their female technology students were honored as New Jersey Affiliate Winners of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards. (NCIT is an acronym for National Center for Women and Information Technology.) They are: Shelley Banfield, 17, Shrewsbury, Affiliate Winner; Tess Hintelmann, 15, Little Silver; NJ Affiliate Winner; Victoria Lloyd, 18, Little Silver, NJ Affiliate Winner; Marie Davidson,18, Shrewsbury, NJ Affiliate Honorable Mention; Mackenzie Wood, 16, Oceanport; NJ Affiliate Honorable Mention; and Mary Fitzsimmons , 15, Little Silver, NJ Certification "One to Watch."
The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing organization's mission is to provide a community for female technologist from elementary school through higher education. NCWIT Aspirations Awards recognized 50 NJ Affiliate Winners, 45 NJ Honorable Mention and 18 Ones to Watch.
The purpose for the award was, according to their website (https://www.aspirations.org/aspirations-computing) is to "build a talent pool for the growing technical workforce and help academic and corporate organizations celebrate diversity in computing by honoring young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests."
Award recipients were selected on "their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education."
RBR's technology teachers submitted six girls for the award, and amazingly 100% of students received recognition.
All of the RBR girls have strong STEM backgrounds and belong to RBR's Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) or its Engineering Academy. Two senior winners, Shelley Banfield and Marie Davidson both plan to continue their study of Computer Science in College. Shelley at Rutgers Honor College and Marie at George Washington University. Victoria Lloyd will study Physics at Harvey Mudd University.
She states of her decision, "Having a good understanding in computer science is a real benefit to any of the STEM fields.
Marie adds, "I enrolled in this academy thinking it might look good on a resume, but found that these are skills we will need the rest of our lives in a field in great demand."
Shelly was excited about the benefits of the award, one of which included access to a peer-network of technical women in the NCWIT AiC Community.
She states, "It is important to know there is a community. All girls (in the field) need someone to look up to."
All the girls were part of a new program organized this year by RBR teachers Mandy Galante, Jeremy Milonas and Alison Sweeney called "Girls Who Code." Every month, for eight months during the school year, fifth to eight graders from RBR's four sending school districts meet their big sister technology major students at the high school, to encourage more females to enter the Computer and Engineering fields. The lead the girls through fun activities related to coding and technology.
Jeremy Milonas believes the girls mentorship in this program helped earn them the NCWIT award,
He states "It is important for them to be honored so they can take pride in the accomplishments they have achieved in this academy."
Alison Sweeney adds, "The whole point in starting the Girls Who Code program was to promote women going into technology by our girls working with younger girls. Additionally, we hoped to encourage our current high school student by showing them the opportunities that they might have for scholarships, college and careers."
The teachers are dedicated to increasing the number of females entering the program citing the growing need for expertise in this area which will provide very high-paying, highly skilled jobs. Recognition programs like the NCIT is one way, they hope the girls will see the value of their work and the benefits to this field of study.
On women entering the Stem fields Tess states, "Some girls are tentative to do this because they see so many guys doing it. But it is important to know this is an option."
Mary echoes those statements stating, "It is important that women are capable to fill these jobs and realize that it is not just a man's world."
Mackenzie sees a real benefit of the NCIT recognition explaining, "I think the award helped me realize that there are many of us. The Facebook group shows so many girls going into the field and so many colleges and that they are so successful."