Mentor Story: Alma Maria Rinasz

When I first told my QA engineer friend, Gilda, that I wanted to learn how to program in C, she couldn’t understand why an English teacher would want  to learn to code. Yet, a couple of weeks later, Gilda was tutoring me on my CS50 homework, and we set the foundations for our social enterprise, C Girls Code.

Two years later, we’ve brought Technovation Challenge to Central Mexico. Gilda convinced me of the importance of sharing our knowledge and teaching other women and girls about entrepreneurship and programming with Technovation Challenge. And just like she was willing to help me when I first sat down to learn about conditionals and loops, I understood that I had to do the same for young women.

Gilda and I have helped get the word out and assemble a team of mentors who are working with twenty girls from a halfway house. We have encountered challenges along the way, but we’ve also found so much support and willingness from our community, our friends and family. We’ve had to take baby steps with our girls, many of whom don’t get to use a computer regularly. So when our girls learned to test their very first app using the App Inventor, we couldn’t have been prouder. We even have a non-girl team (I’m mentoring my son and three of his friends).

Technovation Challenge has allowed me to live something that not only is important but in alignment with my own interests and life-long goals. I believe that I must be a part of the positive change by setting a positive example and giving back to my community. As a mother, I want my children to see me doing just that and to understand why it is important for us to be the change we want to see in the world. During the time that I’ve been volunteering with Technovation Challenge, I became unemployed. I decided to use my time to bring to together my writing skills, online experience, and digital media know-how to author a book for Mexican immigrants living in the United States. Deported: A Survival Guide for Natural Born Mexicans is a culmination of what I try to do every day (be of service and create value) and how I want to be remembered in this world: as someone who was a woman for a change.

Alma Maria Rinasz is the author of Deported: A Survival Guide for Natural Born Mexicans, and a 2017 Technovation Mentor. 

Mentor Story: Ugi Augustine

We are often asked if men can mentor in Technovation. The answer is yes, because being a Technovation mentor is about supporting young women and their interests in technology and entrepreneurship. Technovation mentors young women develop their confidence and leadership skills as well as their technical skills. It is also helpful for girls to see men and women working together to promote STEM education for girls. We do encourage men who want to volunteer as mentors do so in partnership with a woman.

This week, we would like to introduce you to a male mentor,  Ugi Augustine from Calibar, Nigeria.  We hope that his experience as a male mentor will encourage other men to volunteer. We also asked Ugi how he supports his team.

Why did you want to mentor in an all girl’s program?

The idea of having women develop software moved me into becoming a Technovation mentor. Professionally, I already impact knowledge and urge my employees and team members to achieve the unthinkable, but so far we have no women on our team. I believe that one or all of the ladies we currently mentor would become very good software developers.

Grace Ihejiamaizu had introduced me to team CHARIS and [told me] how they won the Technovation competition.  I volunteered to help them develop their app Discardious (which my team and I are currently still helping them with), and we have not just assisted with development of their app, we are also training them so they get regular classes every week. My hope is that they become outstanding young software engineers and do well, just like their male counterparts.

I mentor a lot of people, not just the girls, but it’s been a difficult process mentoring the ladies. I have actually discovered that they seem not to believe that coding can change them and take them places like the men that come to study with us. Most of the men let go of their chosen careers and adopt software as a way to make it in life–on the other hand, the ladies tend to hold on to the careers they already have. With team CHARIS and team SCEPH, I have seen young ladies who really want to make a difference through technology.

What advice do you have for all mentors?

To mentor the girls, the first thing I did was to make them believe in themselves and their abilities to change their communities with ideas. I also taught them to see failure as a normal thing, and understand that a lot of people fail, but then get better after they try again. I have failed so many times in trying to set my company up, so I use my life experiences to inspire them. As a mentor, my job ends in showing the way, the will is invented by the girls, and this is what I make them clearly understand.

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Mentor Story: Unity Girls Who Code

 

We are delighted to share the story of a new team, Unity Girls Who Code, from Morristown, NJ! Unity Girls Who Code  was started by a mother and daughter. This story came our way through their mentors.

Members of the ‘Unity Girls Who Code’ team at Unity Charter School in Morristown, NJ took their first Technovation field trip on a recent Saturday, to Primrose, one of many properties under the preservation auspices of Harding Land Trust in New Jersey. Given that Unity Charter School embodies sustainability at the core of its values and education, the girls chose to explore  the “environment” theme this season. Diala and Jeff, co-mentors to Unity Girls Who Code, are leading the girls through the 20-week curriculum, and the girls are currently at the Ideation module.
Upon arrival at Barrett field, the girls present on this trip — Kayla, Bella and Ella — took a long walking path following tree markers as their guiding light until they reached a vast and open landing where board of trustee members of  the not-for-profit Harding Land Trust organization had all come together to volunteer their time towards preservation of the land by laying soil, mulch and lining the pathways. The girls participated with delight as they picked up logs and carefully placed them along the pathways. With some logs being quite heavy, teamwork went into full force where the three girls each carried one side of the log together until they dropped it on the trail in unison. There were also ribbons wrapped around the bark of many trees; these preceded the latter placed orange markers so the girls enjoyed removing these temporary markers as they took stock of the paths they had helped restore.

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