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How Learning to Code (From Karlie Kloss!) Changed My Life

How Learning to Code (From Karlie Kloss!) Changed My Life

I first became interested in computer programming when I was 15. I had a school assignment using Khan Academy, an educational website, and I totally fell in love with coding. It was awesome to realize that I could create anything—websites, apps, sky's the limit. But not many girls in my high school had the same kind of enthusiasm for coding as I did, and that gave me a lack of confidence to continue learning this skill. Not having a role model to look up to, as far as women in STEM go, didn't help me either.

That’s why being accepted to Kode With Klossy, a two-week computer science program, literally changed my life. After I got in, I was surprised to receive a Facetime call from the one and only supermodel (and supercoder), Karlie Kloss. We talked about school, her life, and the program itself. It was honestly surreal.

On day one, I headed to downtown Los Angeles and I felt just like a business woman going to her first tech job in the city. That first week, we learned Ruby. It was confusing—I had no idea what I was doing, and worried that coding wasn’t for me after all. But I asked my mentors for help, and I didn’t give up. I’m so happy I didn’t.

As the days went by, I improved, feeling inspired that I am a girl who can code. Being surrounded by other girls with the same ambitions as mine directly boosted my confidence. Karlie Kloss’s encouragement didn’t hurt, either. On the very first week, as we were busy working on assignments, one of my friends said, “Karlie is here!” She had surprised us to come say hi—and to take photos with the group. That was one of the coolest experiences I had during the summer.

Throughout the rest of the program, we learned skills like HTML and CSS, code languages that bring websites and mobile applications to life. Our final assignment was to create a website in collaboration with other girls in the program, then present it in front of parents, professionals, and mentors. My group made a site aiming to guide young women with their future careers based on STEM, providing them with resources like summer programs. On the last day, all the groups pitched their idea while Karlie Kloss tuned in via Facetime.

Does this sound fun to you? Here’s my advice: If you think you might be interested in coding, try it out. Coding is not a complicated subject—but while it can be overwhelming at first (it’s just like learning any new language!), know that there are a ton of resources that would help you understand computer programming along your coding journey.

Taking what I learned from the program, I went to my first hackathon at Pomona College. My group was the only all-girls high school team who attended. Even though we didn’t win, I felt proud that we created a website within 24 hours, which is pretty amazing! Also, I was invited to a hashtag event at Snap Inc, in Venice, California. It was interesting to learn how the Snapchat application was built, and to hear from women about their experiences in the tech industry.

All of this inspired me to start the first STEM club for girls in my high school; I felt it was a real turning point in becoming a female leader in my community. I felt proud that I shared my positive and negative stories about my involvement in STEM. I did a presentation about what STEM is, including the types of jobs that are related to those fields and the problems with both the gender gap and lack of diversity. Then, this summer I was chosen to conduct research about computer science at USC along with the help of a Ph.D. mentor. I am so blessed that I’m experiencing different things.

The best part is, I’m only getting started. After Kode with Klossy (and my accomplishments that followed), I decided that I want to pursue a career based on computer science and continue to be an active leader in my community. The future is female, and coding can help make that happen.

By Diana Balderas, 17

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