30 Minnesota female high school students receive 2016 Aspirations for Women in Computing Award honors

Accomplished high school students named recipients, runners-up for the Fourth Annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards

One Minnesota student named national level runner-up

All Award honorees will be recognized at an April 19 ceremony at the Vadnais Heights Commons

SAINT PAUL – March 2016

Advance IT Minnesota, the high-tech talent incubator run by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, today announced the names of 30 Minnesota high school students selected as winners and runners-up in the fourth annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards.

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State winners will be awarded prizes including tech devices and job shadowing and internship opportunities at Minnesota businesses, as well as a $4,000 scholarship provided by businesses for two selected applicants to attend Century College and St. Cloud State University.

2016 Aspirations Awards Honorees

The state winners:

  • Sarah Abdon from St. Paul; Senior at MTS Minnesota Connections Academy
  • Fatumastar Adan from New Brighton; Senior at Irondale High School
  • Neehar Banerjee from Rochester; Senior at Mayo High School
  • Arunima Bhattacharya from Eagan; Junior at Eagan High School
  • Taylor Del Vecchio from Eden Prairie; Senior at Eden Prairie High School
  • Isabella Jennings from Golden Valley; Junior at Breck School
  • Catherine Link from St. Paul; Junior at Convent of the Visitation School
  • Isabel Olson from St. Paul; Senior at Great River School
  • Ariana Pope from Osseo; Senior at Osseo High School
  • Alicia Purdum from Rosemount; Senior, Home School
  • Ashmita Sarma from Wayzata; Junior at Wayzata High School
  • Atalanta Stoeke from Apple Valley; Sophomore at Apply Valley High School (2015 Minnesota runner-up)
  • Yer Thao from Minneapolis; Senior at Patrick Henry High School
  • Tracey Treat from Rosemount; Sophomore at Rosemount High School (2015 Minnesota runner-up)
  • Alicia Zhang from Woodbury; Junior at East Ridge High School

The following Minnesota runners-up will also be honored during the April 19 event and will have access to job shadow and internship opportunities, college scholarships, and an assortment of prizes:

  • Elena Berman from Golden Valley; Junior at Breck School
  • Kayla Fink from St. Paul; Senior at Harding High School
  • Iman Geleto from St. Paul, Senior at Central High School
  • Jessica Hong from Edina; Senior at Edina High School
  • Meghana Iyer from Edina; Junior at Edina High School
  • Rachel Lauer from Clearwater; Junior at Buffalo High School
  • Archana Murali from Golden Valley; Junior at Breck School
  • Mariel Naylor from Wayzata; Junior at Wayzata High School
  • Hannah Quarnstrom from Forest Lake; Senior at North Lakes Academy
  • Abigail Rechkin from Eden Prairie; Senior at Eden Prairie High School
  • Sumayo Saed from Inver Grove Heights; Senior at Step Academy Charter School
  • Sierra Schultz from Minnetonka; Senior at Minnetonka High School
  • Shreya Shankar from Rosemount; Senior at Rosemount High School
  • Charlotte Thomasson from Minnetonka; Senior at Minnetonka High School
  • Anna Wise from Rosemount; Junior at Rosemount High School

Isabel Olson

Minnesota Winner & National-level Runner Up

isabel_olson

A senior at Great River School in St. Paul, Isable Olson has been selected as a Minnesota winner and a national-level runner-up through the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). She placed in the top 11 percent of approximately 3,100 applicants from across the country.

Olson, a Joyce Ivy Scholar for Women in Leadership, an Optimist Scholar and a national QuestBridge Scholar, will be graduating at the top of her class this year. Last summer, she participated in the Smith College Engineering Program where she worked side by side with a team of scientists. She was exposed to new technologies and built micro-controllers in some of the top computer labs across the country. Olson plans to attend Stanford University in the fall to major in Product Design & Technology.

“Growing up, I may not have had the easiest path, but it has given me a strong work ethic, ” Olson said. “I was fortunate enough to have strong, influential women role models in my life. Those supportive influences, along with the SPARCS opportunities, have opened doors for me that I was not aware of before. It is my goal to give back to my community. I want to be a leader in the technology field so that young women from low-income families can see what I accomplished and realize it is possible for them as well.”

Minnesota Educator Award

Thomas Reinartz, Rosemount High School

Also being recognized at the April event is Thomas Reinartz from Rosemount High School. Thomas teaches computer science and has led efforts to grow Rosemount’s computer science program to include Advanced Placement (AP) courses as well as other advanced courses. Under his guidance, the computer science program has more than 180 students registered for next year’s courses and approximately 30 percent female students registered for one of the three different courses offered. Thomas is being presented the Minnesota Educator Award for his support and endorsement of twelve applicants. The Educator Award is awarded to educators that have demonstrated a commitment to encouraging young women’s aspirations in computing.

Encouraging young women to consider careers in tech

The awards program honors young women in grades 9-12 for their computing-related achievements and interests, and was started to encourage young women to consider careers in technology, reducing the significant gender and talent gap in the field. Honorees represent the metro area, Rochester, Forest Lake and Buffalo. The 2016 winners also recognize diversity, with 20 of 30 honorees being of multicultural descent.  Applications increased by more than 100% over 2015, with a record of 96 young women submitting an application.

The NCWIT created the national awards program in 2007 to encourage the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field and generate visibility for women’s participation in computing-related pursuits. In 2012, Minnesota became a state affiliate, offering young women the opportunity to be recognized at the state and national level.

State winners will be awarded prizes including tech devices and job shadowing and internship opportunities at Minnesota businesses, as well as a $4,000 scholarship provided by businesses for two selected applicants to attend Century College and St. Cloud State University.

All 96 Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards applicants have been invited to participate in the Sustaining Passion, Ambition and Resolve for Career Success (SPARCS) program. Beginning with an event at Microsoft in December, 2015, the program provides an opportunity for the young women to connect with mentors, develop new tech skills and participate in activities led by local women in the technology industry. Additional events will occur in April, May and June. Sponsorship funding for Aspirations also supports the SPARCS year-round program. “The support for Aspirations and SPARCS is unbelievable! It demonstrates to the award winners and other girls with budding technology interests that Minnesota really wants them to succeed, ideally attend college in this rich education state and work for a local company intent upon contributing to the vitality of a strong state economy,” said Russell Fraenkel, director of IT career pathways and partnerships at Advance IT Minnesota. “These young women are amazing and I’m proud to have crossed paths with them.”

While women today comprise more than half of the U.S. professional workforce, they play only a small role in inventing the technology of tomorrow. And of the 1.2 million expected openings for computer specialists by 2022, the current number of American graduates can only fill 39 percent, according to the U.S Department of Labor, Bureau Statistics, 2014.

Advance IT Minnesota, with the committed help of modest to massive business partners, works to bridge the gender and opportunity gap, by recognizing and encouraging young women in high school interested in computing and technology to make their mark, and make IT big.

This year, several sponsors have contributed generously to support the awards and SPARCS programs, including Logic PD, a Champion Partner, and Maverick Software Consulting, Veritas, Land O’Lakes, Inc., SPS Commerce, STEM Fuse – all Pillar Partners. Additional major partners include: TC Chapter – MN Women in Computing, Thomson Reuters, Upper Midwest Security Alliance, Institute for Professional Development (Metropolitan State University), ViaWest, Pearson, Unisys, General Mills, Target, ESP IT, Securian, The Nerdery, HelpSystems, PeopleNet, MN Computers for Schools, Information Systems Security Association, Best Buy, Microsoft, Women Leading in Technology – MHTA, Girls in Tech – Twin Cities, Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), TECH{dot}MN and Genesys Works – Twin Cities.

The deadline for 2016 sponsorship, or to get involved in some other way, is Friday, March 18. For more information about specific opportunities, visit our sponsors page or contact Russell.Fraenkel@metrostate.edu.

About Advance IT Minnesota
Advance IT Minnesota engages employers, educators, technology professionals and learners to develop a more robust IT workforce in Minnesota. A Center of Excellence within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, it is hosted at the Metropolitan State University, St. Paul Midway campus. For more information, visit www.advanceitmn.org.

About National Center for Women & Information Technology
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a coalition of more than 200 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women’s participation in information technology (IT). To find out more, visit www.ncwit.org.