Meet Lilah! An 11th grade Juni student. She's super impressive and passionate about STEM, particularly when it comes to empowering girls to code. Lilah is the only girl on her school's Robotics team and has seen first hand how many girls don't pursue coding when not properly supported. Lilah hosted a 2- day virtual Hackathon for the Girls in her hometown. Focused on exposing girls to the world of coding, with a final project applying what they learned to help their local communities.
Lilah's story was also featured in the news recently - read more below:
- Changemakers: Long Island 11th grader empowers girl coders
- Miller Place teen enlists tech firms to narrow gender gap in coding, STEM
What’s one of your favorite things you’ve learned in your Juni courses?
One of the most fascinating things that I have learned at Juni is flood fill algorithms because they not only used in graphic design tools, but they're also used in a variety of coding challenges, including USACO problems that I am training for.
What about your Juni Instructors?
One of my favorite things about my instructors at Juni is that they're all really supportive, and whenever I'm confused about something, they always explain it again in a different way. That really helps me understand. And they're all really encouraging.
What advice do you have to other learners looking to get into coding?
So whenever you're hearing about programming, it seems like everybody out there is this huge programming genius that just automatically knows things, but people really don't. You can do this. And just because you don't know how to do something yet doesn't mean that you won't ever know how to do it, and it doesn't mean that you can't learn how to do it. And if other people seem confident around you, just know that they also are in the same boat. They're also worried that they might not know how to do this. They're also trying to learn everything as fast as they can. But that just means that everybody around you is also basically your teammate. You can all learn programming and work together to further your knowledge of programming. And really, you're not alone.
What comes to mind when you think about your future?
When I think about my future, I just know that I really want to continue with computer science. I'm planning to major in computer science, and then when I graduate I want to work on computer science research. Computer science has the potential to have this amazing impact on the world. You can really do anything with it, from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity, and I really want to be a part of that and be able to create something that has to do with computers and technology.
What sparked your interest in coding?
I've always been fascinated by puzzles, and coding is like the ultimate puzzle, you can create something, anything with it. But in the end, it still has an answer, which means that you can. There's just many answers you can solve anything with programing and the pieces fit together like the ultimate creative puzzle. I had always had this interest in programing since before I could remember.
You’re extremely passionate about expanding access to coding, what drives this passion?
One reason I feel like platforms like Juni are so important is because they help inspire girls to stick with programming. When I've run workshops in programming in robotics for elementary school students, classes seem to be about half girls and all the girls were fascinated by programming. They seemed to love it. Moving into middle school, though, my robotics team was about only a fifth girls and moving into high school, I'm currently the only girl on my robotics team. So thinking back to these girls in elementary school who obviously loved it so much, they're disappearing. And in order to prevent that, we can help them through middle school, providing a bridge from the basic programming concepts into the more advanced high school concepts. And I've done some research and any exposure in middle school to programming increases girls' skills, and it also increases their confidence, allowing them to push past any societal pressure on them and continue the programming that they obviously love so much.