The Code to Success

YU High School for Girls Computer Science Club Gives Students Competitive Edge in Male-Dominated Field

For today’s high school and college students, technological skills are more important than ever. Demand for computer science degrees has skyrocketed, with employers across industries seeking candidates who can program and code on any level. But for women, the future isn’t as bright: despite making up more than half of the workforce, only 25 percent hold jobs in technical or computing fields, and in a room of 25 engineers, only three are likely to be women.

20141203_girls_coding_club_008Students at Yeshiva University’s Samuel H. Wang High School for Girls (Central) are planning to change that equation.

Last year, at the request of students in every grade, the school partnered with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that works to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. “There’s a big push in every school to get girls more involved in science and math,” said Marci Karoll, director of educational technology at Central. “What’s exciting about Girls Who Code is the overwhelming response we’ve had. The girls asked for this and we even have a waiting list. It was the perfect fit for our school.”

The club is led by Karoll and Rivka Apfel, a recent Central alumna earning her bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in physics. They draw on a full curriculum provided by the Girls Who Code organization. Once a week, students meet to learn basic coding and develop skills that will help them build anything from games and websites to their own apps. “They’ll ultimately be able to create art projects, math projects, even a shareable app or program,” said Karoll.

“I really enjoy teaching and I loved my experience at Central, so I jumped at the chance to teach coding here,” said Rivka Apfel, who hopes to work as a programmer in the field of artificial intelligence or as a patent attorney. “It is really inspiring for me to just see the interest these girls have in a field that is so stereotypically male-dominated. They don’t seem intimidated at all—just the opposite, they seem determined and excited. It’s a great atmosphere to be a part of.”

Jessica Plotsker, a junior, is collaborating with other students to build an app that will benefit the high school. “It’s exciting,” she said. “We’re trying to create an app that will help our community.” Ultimately, Plotsker hopes to study engineering in an Israeli institution. “Coding will definitely be an important skill for my future,” she said.

Karen Yehoshua, a senior, has enjoyed learning how to use Java in BlueJ, a free Java-development environment for beginners. “I’m looking forward to mastering the language and learning how to code in my free time,” she said. “I’ll already be one step ahead of my computer science class in college.”