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Special Inspire_Her Feature on coderGirls Competition Winners: Jenna McClellan

I sat down with Jenna to discuss her achievement of being the first place winner of the coderGirls International Video Competition. Due to her win, she was able to receive a ticket to the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference, 400$ in Amazon Web Store credit, and an interview through coderGirls. Through the video competition, we wanted to see how girls connect computer science to their passion through a film. For example, students can make a video on how they help others through code, making music through code, or connecting dance to code.

Jenna is a rising junior at Centennial High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Jenna has been programming for approximately five years, and is currently fluent in HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, Swift, and App Inventor. She participates in Science Olympiad as her club’s secretary. Jenna is a founding member of the Centennial Computer Science Community Service club, which was established to teach basic programming skills to children and youth with disabilities. Jenna also participates in Varsity Cross Country and Track for her high school.

Her Video Entry:

Briana: Why did you enter the coderGirls competition and what did you enter with?

Jenna: I entered the coderGirls competition because I wanted to exhibit how computing can be related to my passion for running while simultaneously showing that girls are equally as good as boys at coding. I entered the coderGirls competition with a video featuring an app I am currently creating called Run Buddy. This app motivates people to run and offers users many other running-related features. Both the video and app were made entirely by myself without the help of any boys. I hope that this will show other girls that they can also make apps and learn to program without having to be intimidated by boys.

Briana: What was your first experience with technology and/or coding?

Jenna: My first experience with coding happened during middle school. I participated in MESA, a STEM based competition, and in my eighth grade year the competition featured Alice programming. This portion of the competition is what led me to become more interested in computing in high school. As for technology, I have used computers and technology in general for as long as I can remember.

Briana: Describe some of your achievements in awards or extracurriculars, especially STEM.

Jenna: In May, I had the opportunity to travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, as a winner of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing National Award. This award was presented to a total of fifty young women for accomplishments and potential in the field of computer science. I have also received multiple medals at both regional and state Science Olympiad competitions.

Briana: What is a challenge you've faced, related to coding/technology experiences? How did you overcome that challenge?

Jenna: One challenge that I faced regarding coding was learning to code in Swift, the language used to create iOS apps. Ever since I began computing, I knew that I wanted to create an app. As an iPhone user, it seemed only natural that I would create an app for iPhones. When I finally had the opportunity to code in Swift beginning this year, I ended up having to teach myself the language. This proved to be very challenging, although with the help of YouTube and Stack Overflow, I eventually was able to learn Swift programming and create apps.

Briana: What advice would you have for someone who was interested in technology, but was intimidated?

Jenna: Technology and coding can be intimidating, and it can be hard. That being said, anyone can learn to program if they work hard and are dedicated, regardless of things such as gender, race, or sexuality. Why not give computing a try?

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