Twenty To Texas: Why we need to fund GHC ‘15

This time last year, I was a confused freshman who was quickly figuring out that my 3rd attempt at a declared major was not something I remotely enjoyed (Chemistry, for those of you interested in Things I Do Not Excel At). I spent most of 2014 quietly worrying that I was running out of career options. The closest thing I found to a true “calling” was the introductory class I had just taken for MATLAB, but it was way too late for me to go down the Computer Science route. I mean, people in that major were all members of the pre-pubescent programming club. I was 18 and barely knew how to turn on a computer. Also, it was MATLAB.

With the reckless apathy of a freshman who has nothing left to lose, I declared CS anyway.

I had never programmed before. I worried I was going to be bad at it. I worried I wasn’t going to like it. I was worried it was too late, as I would be competing with an intimidating crowd of guys who had been programming since before they hit puberty. With all of these insecurities floating in my head, I felt like an impostor in my classes. I kept my head down, and quietly hoped no one would notice the sophomore girl who declared CS with no real programming experience.

Then, over the summer, a post on Facebook about a CS conference taking place in Phoenix, AZ caught my attention. I was born there, but we moved away when I was young- it’s a sign, said the dramatic part of me that believes in things like Signs and Symbolic Rebirth. It’s a free trip, said the part of me that’s an actual college student.

I can’t emphasize enough that GHC changed everything.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) is a 3-day wonderfest of computing science, tech, networking, confidence, and girl power.

On the first day of the conference, I got in a habit of introducing myself to strangers at meal times and during tech talks. Speaking to these women was the most pivotal part of the conference for me. My first question (fuelled by biggest insecurity) was always “when did you start programming?” Some of the answers: A woman from Amazon declared CS 3 years into an English degree, and another hadn’t programmed until she was in her thirties. As the conference progressed, I was beginning to realize that success did not necessarily correlate with an early start. The tech talks fascinated me, and I landed an internship with Verizon at the career fair.

By the time the conference ended, my insecurities had been completely replaced with excitement for my new major.

I’ve had no problem catching up to my classmates. In my spare weekends I’ve been having a blast bouncing around the country attending hackathons- in fact, this is the second article I’ve written from the increasing familiarity of a Greyhound bus.

Since the conference, I’ve been been channeling my inner Grace by reaching out left and right to girls at my school and talking to prospective students at open houses about CS/EE. We’ve doubled the number of women holding executive positions in our school’s ACM chapter. Most importantly, we’ve convinced the department to help double the number of girls attending GHC this year.

This year, we want to bring 20 girls from CWRU to Texas for GHC, all expenses paid- and we’re not being quiet about it.

We raised $700 in our first week of media-blasting alone. We’ve got a full list of girls who want to go, and we’ve had no problem getting voluteers to help organize the trip. I’d like to thank the domino effect of Case’s GHC pioneer group, led by Stephanie Hippo. Those of us who went last year have not stopped talking about it.

The Case Western GHC guniea pigs

Other girls noticed we went to this secret magic camp and came back with confidence, and they want in too. We’re going to get them their tickets to secret magic camp, with a goal to remove the whole “secret” part, as well. How?

#TwentyToTexas.

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