ACPS Recognized for Girl Power in AP Computer Science

T.C. Williams High School has earned the College Board AP® Computer Science Female Diversity Award for achieving high female representation in AP Computer Science Principles.

T.C. Williams is beaming with “girl power” pride as one of only eight public schools in Virginia and one of 490 schools to be recognized with this award — out of more than 18,000 secondary schools worldwide that offer AP courses — for having 50 percent or more females in an AP computer science courses or having a percentage of female computer science test takers that meet or exceed the school’s female population.

T.C. is known for the rich ethnic, cultural and gender diversity in our school and within our classes. This award is especially timely given conversations taking place every day about diversity and inclusiveness. It speaks to how T.C. embraces and encourages diversity in all forms and works hard to ensure that all students have access to the courses and pathways needed today to be successful in the workforce of tomorrow. T.C. is emerging as a leader in growing a pipeline of STEM students ready to meet the demands of an evolving workforce and help solve some of society’s most challenging problems,” said T.C. Williams High School Principal Peter Balas.

Research (PDF) shows women are more likely to pursue computer science if they’re given the opportunity to explore it in high school. By expanding girls’ access in AP Computer Science courses in high school, T.C. is opening doors to high-demand, high-paying career opportunities. And, with the partnership with Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, ACPS is working to ensure that female students are fully represented in the tech-talent pipeline and have access to new computer science education resources that are to come.

National Board Certified Computer Science Teacher Catherine DeVilliers has seen the interest in computer science explode since she began teaching at T.C. four years ago. The only computer science teacher that she knows of with a degree in computer science, she has seen the computer science program grow from one class four years ago to five classes today. And, she went from having only 10 percent female students to 50 percent today.

The face of computer science has changed. No longer is it the stereotypical computer geek. Our computer science classes reflect the diversity of our school population. Looking back, T.C. went through racial desegregation during the time that played out in Remember the Titans, but some things still seemed separate in some ways. Having a computer science program is an extension of the uniting of the school. Having computer science knowledge and skills is vital for students to be successful in the workplace of tomorrow. By increasing enrollment of all students in these courses, enables students of all varieties to access career pathways in STEM and related fields that they may not have known existed. For some students, it’s their first AP course, often leading the others,” said DeVilliers.

According to the College Board, AP computer science course participation increased 135 percent since 2016, broadening STEM career opportunities for more students. The number of female, rural, and underrepresented minority students taking AP computer science exams has more than doubled in that period.

Here is What the Opportunity to take AP Computer Science Classes Means to Four Female Students

RebekahRebekah Lamarre
T.C. Williams High School Junior

Coming up through high school, Rebekah had her eyes set on a career in marketing. She took the AP Computer Science class out of curiosity and learned a few things that have led her to change her course to engineering.

This class really exposed me to the field of engineering. Before this class, I had no idea that computer science engineering even existed. I wasn’t aware of the disparities in the field. Now I know that there is a lack of females in engineering and this class is helping to change that. It creates opportunities so that more women are exposed to the field. I’m going to be an engineer because of what I learned in this class. It means a lot to me to be a part of the growing number of females in the field. Now I can expose more females to the field and help it grow.” said Rebekah.

Kelly Jones
T.C. Williams High School Junior

Kelly has friends who had taken the AP Computer Science class and wanted to see what it was all about. She was surprised to find that she liked it a lot. With a long-term goal of becoming a lawyer, because of this class, she is now considering studying computer science for her undergraduate degree to get a background in technology, before heading to law school and pursuing a career in the realm of intellectual property or patent and trade law.

There’s a lot of logic involved. I learned that I like to solve logic problems. You have a goal you are trying to achieve and you write code to try to create that outcome. Through the class I learned to be more patient with problem-solving, how to persevere and to keep making adjustments until it works. I’m more willing to invest the time in problem-solving and it’s something that has transferred to how I approach work in my other classes,” said Kelly.

Sofia Camacho
T.C. Williams Sophomore

Sofia grew up surrounded by computers and with a dad who had a passion for building his own computers. She was guided towards a more STEM-focused path, but had never had the opportunity to code. When a friend showed her the power of what coding can do, she grew curious. While most of her coding friends were guys, she did see some girls who were coding and doing better than the guys, so she signed up for the AP Computer Science class.

This programming class has been one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever taken. I’ve learned what it’s like to be challenged in ways I’ve never thought possible and began to learn the true understanding of perseverance and its rewards. I have learned the importance of teamwork and never giving up. I had gone into the class anticipating a future in coding or working in medical technology, but I’ve learned that programming language just does not come as naturally as it does to some others. Taking this class helped me down a career path that’s a better fit — I’ve realized I like working more with people than with code. But, I know that the things I learned through this class, like how to persevere and to take on challenges, will benefit me whatever path I choose,” said Sofia.

Isra Shuster
T.C. Williams Junior

Isra considers herself to be a pretty savvy computer user, but had not been exposed to the inner workings. She took the computer science class out of curiosity and now has a more defined career path as a direct result. Isra has always known she wanted a career in medicine. Through the Introduction to Health and Medical Sciences class she realized that she wanted to be a surgeon. And now, through the AP Computer Science class, she’s refined her path even further to by combining technology and medicine.

Data is becoming a big part of medicine. When I realized that there was a way to combine computer science with medicine, it all clicked. In the future, computers and robotics will be used more and more during surgery and data will continue to be an important part of medicine. I want to be one of the surgeons who combines medicine and technology. Through this class, I’ve developed analytical skills and learned how to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and think about problems as challenges. I like exploring all potential solutions and then combining them to solve the problem. It’s something that’s been helpful not only in this class, but in other classes and in my volunteer work with many different organizations,” said Isra.

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