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Girls Who Code: TMECHS earns national award for gender equity in computer science

 Photo of female students at TMECHS using their laptops

(TRANSMOUNTAIN EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL -- Feb. 1, 2022) — TMECHS, EPISD’s national Blue Ribbon early college high school program, is gaining recognition for helping girls find potential careers in computer science.

The College Board last month honored the school with the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for closing the gender gap and expanding young women’s access to computer science.

TMECHS was one of 10 Texas high schools among the 1,020 campuses recognized nationwide for their work towards equal gender representation in the 2020-21 school year. These high schools have either reached 50 percent or higher female examinee representation in one of or both AP computer science courses, or whose percentage of the female examinees met or exceeded that of the school's female population. At TMECHS, it is a 60-40 split.

“It speaks to the education we provide here,” said principal Barbara Brinkley-Lopez, whose campus also earned its second Blue-Ribbon School designation last year. “Our ability to get teachers certified in new and different subjects to stay on the cutting edge is vitally important not just for our program but for our students as they move over to post-secondary education or careers.”

The 2020-21 school year was the time TMECHS offered the AP Computer Science course, and it continues to draw more female students than males.

“I’ve been wanting to do computer science since I was a freshman,” said senior Aliyah Laumer-Newell. “I’ve always wanted to study it. It draws me in.”

The TMECH senior, who hopes to enroll at Texas Christian University this fall, is already planning a career in software engineering.

“Our world is technologically advancing every day and I would love to be a big part of that,” she said. “This award is good because there aren’t as many women in computer science, and especially colored women. I think it encourages more women to join this field and that they can do it, too.”

Senior Bethany King has always found computer science and coding interesting. While she doesn’t think a career specifically in computer science is in her future, she knows the skills she learns will make a difference to her future as a professor, historian or museum curator.

“It’s teaching me to pay attention to details and to be critical,” she said. “You have to pay attention to details, or you won’t get it right.”

Esmeralda Castaneda, one of King and Laumer-Newell’s classmates, also doesn’t think she’ll go into the computer science field, but is still glad she took the course.

“It’s challenging,” she said. “It simply makes you think ‘how can I solve this?’ It’s a fun class.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photo by Leonel Monroy