Jefferson Award Winner Introduces Bay Area Girls To Tech Careers

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Kimberly Bryant - Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

Kimberly Bryant – Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Hundreds of Bay Area girls are using their summer vacation to pick up some technical training. It’s a project created by this week’s Jefferson Award winner – a bioengineer who’d like to see more women of color join her in the field.

“I am very interested in computers,” 9-year-old Charmienne Butterfield said, gesturing to the screen displaying the web page she was designing. “I’m just adding some stuff – I’m going to make some paragraphs and I’m going to put a title.”

Butterfield is learning how from the volunteers at Black Girls Code, a non-profit created by San Francisco bioengineer Kimberly Bryant.

“Some of the main core subjects we like to teach are web-making, so CSS, HTML, front-end web development,” Bryant explained. “We also do code classes and mobile app development.”

Bryant followed her love of science and math to a college major in engineering. But the big recruiting effort that encouraged her didn’t succeed with many others like her.

“It was isolating to some extent to not have those peers that I could really resonate with throughout my undergraduate studies,” she remembered. “I also faced some of that throughout my career.”

In fact, Bryant says less than 3 percent of students earning computer science degrees now are women of color. That’s why she launched Black Girls Code, to introduce young students like Butterfield to the many tools of tech.

“We went on field trips,” said Butterfield. “We went to IBM, NASA, and the Computer Science Museum. And it was very interesting.”

Eleven-year-old Aita Zulu is just as enthusiastic. “Before I joined the Build a Webpage class, I knew nothing about it, and how to do a webpage at all!” she said.

Zulu is so good at coding now, she helps teach younger girls.

“I think I would want to be in this kind of work when I grow up,” she said. “It seems kind of fun to me.”

The Black Girls Code summer program has expanded from San Francisco to six other cities, from Oakland to Atlanta. During the academic year, groups meet after school and on weekends for classes in robotics, computer programming, and building video games.

“I am starting to really see the girls flourish and bloom and really develop hardcore tech skills,” Bryant said with a pleased smile. “I just hope to show them that they’re capable of whatever it is that they want to do as they grow.”

So for giving the next generation the scientific know-how for the future of technology, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Kimberly Bryant.

Classes at Black Girls Code are not free, but there is financial assistance available. To check out the program visit http://www.blackgirlscode.com/

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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