WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 13, 2017—A group of Williams College students has received a $5,200 grant from Google to support a mentorship program with area schools intended to help teach computer science.
The grant was awarded as part of igniteCS, a Google initiative that seeks to enable undergraduate students to provide computer science mentorship programs in their local communities. The students have partnered with Mount Greylock High School in Williamstown to begin a mentoring program targeted toward ninth graders, but open to all high school students. The students say they chose high school students for the program since Williams already has mentoring programs in computer science at local middle and elementary schools. A student who has developed an interest in computer science in elementary or middle school will now be able to continue working with a mentor in high school.
“The first time I tried computer science, I instantly knew it was what I wanted to study,” said Diego Gonzalez ’18 of Monroe, N.Y., one of the group’s co-leaders. “My only regret is that I didn’t get exposed to it until near the end of my high school career. It really deserves to be a bigger part of the K-12 curriculum, and my hope is that we will be able to kick start that process at local schools with this program.”
“I’ve seen a pretty significant interest in computer science at the middle school level, especially with girls. I think that high school can really be a make or break period for that interest,” added Anjali Pai ’19 of Danbury, Conn., who also leads the effort. “When I took computer science in high school, I remember my class being predominantly male. That can be a discouraging and intimidating environment for a girl who’s interested in programming. Our hopes are to make a conscious effort to reach out to women and other underrepresented identities at the high school level to sustain existing interests in computer science and hopefully expose students who haven’t been able to explore this field.”
The program will hold two sessions a week – one at Mount Greylock and the other at the computer labs at Williams. The program intends to promote diversity in technology by reaching out to female students and students of color. After piloting the program at Mount Greylock, the Williams students plan to expand it to other area high schools.
The program will be offered free to mentees, including transportation to and from Williams College for computer lab sessions.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.