IT community honors women’s computing award winners

April 22, 2013

MHTA – Representatives from the Minnesota and national IT community came together to honor the 11 winners of the first annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing awards. More than 80 participants, including the award winners, their parents, educators, sponsors and representatives from the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) attended the celebration on Thursday, April 18, hosted at Unisys Corporation in Eagan.

Minnesota had the highest participation rate in the country among single state first-year award programs. The following high school award winners received $500 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) scholarships along with iPad Minis, trophies and other prizes:

  • 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 runners-up received various prizes and certificates of honor:

  • 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

“It was an honor to join with representatives from all corners of the IT community to recognize these amazing and gifted young women, and connect them to others who share their passion for technology,” says Russell Fraenkel, director of collaborative programs and outreach at Advance IT Minnesota. “We were blown away by the talent and poise of this year’s winners, and look forward to continue supporting them to become tomorrow’s IT leaders.”

Minnesota winner Sarah Aladetan was also named a national award winner in the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award, an honor given to only 35 students in the nation. Aladetan was recognized for the national award during the 2013 Bank of America Technology Stars of the Future Showcase in Charlotte, North Carolina, last month where she received $500 and a laptop computer.

Aladetan said, “Because of this award I am more inspired and motivated to have a career in technology. It really solidified the idea of doing this for the rest of my life, and that excites me.”

Minnesota winner Dorothy O’Berry was also named a national runner-up. Winners and runners-up were chosen from a national applicant pool exceeding 1,800 young women.

During the event, Tenzin Nordon, an Americorps College Possible staff member serving students at Columbia Heights High School, was also presented with the Aspirations in Computing Educator Award. Nordon was born in Chandigarh, India, and lived there until she immigrated to the United States with her family in 1998. An alum of College Possible, she attended Carleton College and graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in Biology. In college, Nordon helped co-found and establish a program called Lamton, meaning “guidance” in Tibetan, in which college students tutored and mentored Tibetan middle and high school students in the metro area. Nordon is now serving her second Americorps term with College Possible, a non-profit organization that seeks to help highly motivated, low-income students gain admission into and succeed in college. Through College Possible, she works with 39 seniors who she has supported for two years, including one who was an award winner. Most of her students have already been accepted into college and are currently actively pursuing scholarship funds that could help them afford college.

Faith Rothberg, CEO of CollegeRecruiter.com, emceed the awards celebration, with remarks by Scott Vogel, vice president and general manager of North America Business Development for Unisys; Ruthe Farmer, NCWIT Director of Strategic Initiatives; and winners Aladetan and Kuutti. Nzisa Kiilu, UX project manager for BI Worldwide, shared an inspiring “Say Yes!” keynote address. Barb Schmitt, Microsoft senior engagement manager, and Andrea Atkinson, Microsoft support practice manager, presented the awards. Each of the winners were also presented with job shadow awards coordinated by MHTA’s Women Leading in Technology (WLiT), and Kristi Dorn, corporate communications manager at Help/Systems, presented a paid summer internship to national award winner Aladetan.

The Aspirations Award initiative and ceremony were made possible through the generous participation of the following companies and organizations: Advance IT Minnesota, 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, Microsoft, Unisys Corporation, Securian, The Nerdery, Pearson VUE, Securian, Help/Systems, Nina Hale, Genesys Works, Girls in Tech Minneapolis, and ESP – IT.

The 2014 National and Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards will be open for applications in the fall. Watch for more information and the online application at www.aspirationsaward.org. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or sponsor of the 2014 awards, please contact Russell.Fraenkel@metrostate.edu.