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Inspire_Her Feature: Diana Balderas

My name is Diana Balderas, an upcoming senior at Animo Jackie Robinson High School in Los Angeles, California. I have been programming for about three years, being self-taught using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, App Inventor, and Java. I started the first STEM club for girls recently this year aiming to promote and inspire young women to seek interest in STEM. During my free time I like to practice on my coding skills and learn new programming languages.

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

Diana: My first interaction with technology was when I would help my father repair video game consoles, which is interesting to learn how products are build from the inside out. Additionally, I came across to Khan Academy with the help of my technology teacher during my freshman year in highschool. I was taught to code with a software program named JavaScript to animate features such as 2-D digital design and animation. After I created my first project with the basics of computer programming I felt great of what I accomplished on my own. Since then I fell in love with coding :)

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

Diana: One of the best aspects I have done is teaching myself how to code in HTML, CSS, Java, and JavaScript using Codecademy. With my experiences with coding, I won a scholarship to a computer science summer program in Los Angeles called Kode With Klossy. In the program, I learned to code with Ruby {software program} to build a website, an Uber fare estimate calculator, and how to follow people just like Snapchat. I took the next step to attend my first hackathon in Pomona College with some alumnae from Kode With Klossy. Even though we didn’t win, I felt amazed of how our website was built in less than 12 hours and we were the only all-girls high school team competing. Furthermore, I was invited to attend an hashtag event @Snapchat Inc. in Venice, California. It was a great opportunity to learn about how the mobile application came to be and seek advice from women in the tech industry including sharing their stories that were both positive and negative. I participated in a online virtual competition started by Google, where I completed different tasks relating to research, digital design, and coding from a variety of tech companies such as FOSSASIA. The confidence I gained from the accomplishments I have done, I started the first STEM club for young women knowing that my high school doesn’t offer a computer science class. I had a brief presentation about my active participation in STEM, what does STEM stand for, and why I chose to be part of the industry. This summer of 2017 , I was selected to conduct a research project at the University of Southern California relating to computer science. With the help of my mentor, I’m creating a mobile application to help with the issue of how much food goes to waste knowing that some products are still edible.

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

Diana: A challenge I faced is being discriminated against my ethnicity, which is being hispanic and my dream of pursuing a career based on computer science. It was difficult to know that there aren’t many role models of my own race being part of the STEM industry. With the help of my mentors from Kode With Klossy, I learned that I shouldn’t let anyone put me down because after all, I am a young hispanic woman who is a future innovator in the tech industry and a . From the encouragement and support from my community, I took the biggest step of my life which is being a role model from young women in STEM. Successfully, starting my own STEM club called Latinas In STEM; I couldn’t be prouder of myself because sí se puede! As a minority in STEM, I want to make a difference especially motivating young girls to keep reaching for their dreams. I learned that there is always going to be a barrier in my life that won’t let me keep reaching for my goals, but I needed to prove myself that the accomplishments I made makes an impact in society.

Briana: What universities are you applying to in the fall?

Diana: I will be applying for USC, UCLA, UC Merced, UCSB, and UC Riverside. For Cal States, it would be Cal Tech, Cal State Long Beach, California Polytechnic State University, and Cal Fullerton.

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

Don’t be afraid to try new things because you might never know it could turn out to be your future career you want pursue. First thing to know is that coding could seem scary at first, but there’s a lot resources to help you learn and little by little you’ll get the hang of it. Next, if you want to make a difference in your community, be the change you want to see. Furthermore, your creativity and innovation with coding combined you can create anything that you want. Lastly, everything is possible unless you push yourself to work hard and dedicate your time to learn something new. /* Remember, girls can code! *

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