MHTA – When Sarah Aladetan, a junior at Park Center Senior High School, started teaching herself computer programming from one of her father’s old college textbooks a few years ago, she didn’t know it would quickly turn into her main passion. Now, she’s receiving national recognition for her self-taught technology skills.
Advance IT Minnesota, the high-tech talent incubator run by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), along with numerous Minnesota partners, has named six winners and five runners-up of its first annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing award for high school students. Winners from across the state were selected based on their interests, accomplishments, and community involvement in computing and technology, as well as for their aspirations in computing and technology-related fields.
Additionally, Aladetan was named a winner of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing award, an honor given to only 35 students in the nation. Another Minnesota student, Dorothy O’Berry, was selected as a runner-up for the national award. The applicant pool exceeded 1,800 young women. Aladetan will receive numerous national and state level prizes including a $1,000 scholarship from MnSCU to be applied to a school of her choice.
The following Minnesota winners will receive several prizes, including a $500 MnSCU scholarship, and will be honored at an event hosted at Unisys Corporation in Eagan in April 2013:
- Sarah Aladetan of Brooklyn Park; junior at Park Center Senior High School
- Tarissa Jackson of Savage; junior at Burnsville Senior High School
- Kirsi Kuutti of Duluth; senior at Duluth East High School
- Ananya Mishra of Maple Grove; junior at Wayzata High School
- Dorothy O’Berry of St. Paul; senior at Como Park Senior High School
- Herchran Singh of Rochester; senior at John Marshall High School
The following Minnesota runners-up will receive prizes, and will also be honored during an awards event in April:
- Hanna Abikar of Columbia Heights; senior at Columbia Heights High School
- Molly Andersen of Mendota Heights; senior at Trinity School at River Ridge
- Alison Decker of St. Paul; senior at Johnson Senior High School
- Erin Mitchell of Lakeville; junior at Lakeville North High School
- Annelies Odermann of Wayzata; junior at Wayzata High School
Aladetan will also be honored at the 2013 Bank of America Technology Stars of the Future Showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina, and will receive $500 and a laptop computer for winning the NCWIT award.
“I’ve never won anything of this level,” Aladetan says. “Computer programming is my main passion, but I’ve never had anyone to compare myself to. Winning this award showed me that programming is something I really am good at. I’m very grateful.”
In addition to teaching herself computer programming, Aladetan is also a member of her school’s robotics club. She plans to major in either computer engineering or computer science in college and hopes to one day launch a start-up that combines her passion for programming with one of her other interests: design or music.
“The award committee was thrilled with the number and quality of applications received from high school students throughout the state, especially since this is the first year Minnesota has offered the state award. We’re proud that Minnesota had the highest participation rate in the country among single state first-year award programs,” said Russell Fraenkel, director of collaborative programs and outreach at Advance IT Minnesota. “We believe that young women who develop strong technology skills during their high school years will perform better in their post-secondary education pursuits and bring greater value to their future employers. On behalf of our many partners, it’s a pleasure to support these tech-savvy young women.”
Advance IT Minnesota partnered with the following Minnesota organizations to offer the award: Black Data Processing Associates, Cognizant, Maverick Software Consulting, Minnesota High Tech Association, TECHdotMN, Leading-Edge Collaborations, Inc., Thomson Reuters, the Twin Cities Chapter of the Association of Women in Computing, Symantec and Unisys Corporation.
The award committee is seeking prizes including iPads, cash or gift cards, and other appropriate items; one-day job shadow and summer 2013 internship opportunities to share with this year’s winners. If you would like to donate prizes or discuss job shadow or internship opportunities, please contact Russell.Fraenkel@metrostate.edu.
The 2014 National and Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards will be open for applications in the fall. Watch for more information at AspirationsAward.org.