Vandegrift student teaches Code Chicks camp

Fifteen 4th and 5th grade girls enjoyed a week of “Code Chicks,” a coding seminar, taught by Amelia Nickerson, rising Vandegrift junior. Funding for the camp was underwritten by a grant awarded to Nickerson from the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

“I chose to apply for the NCWIT AspireIT grant to teach girls how to code, because when I was in elementary school, I never had the opportunity to pursue my curiosity in technology,” said Nickerson. “When I got that opportunity in high school, I wanted to share my passion.”

Once Nickerson was awarded the national grant, she obtained the required local, nonprofit sponsorship from Viper Nation Education Foundation. Code Chicks aligns with the VNEF mission to support academic programs through private donations.

Nickerson then secured a local site for her classroom at Cardinal Point’s Academic Center with the assistance of Courtney Johnson, VNEF executive director.

Nickerson wrote the entire week’s lesson plans, promoted enrollment by visiting every Four Points elementary school, and managed online enrollment. She also recruited two peers to help co-teach: Mindy Van, from Vandegrift, and Aditi Merchant, at Westwood High School. Like seasoned teachers, the three young women taught the class every day.

“Amelia, Mindy and Aditi immediately got their classroom of 4th and 5th grade giggling girls to a confident level of basic coding. The girls were engaged, having fun and being creative,” said VNEF’s Johnson. “It was great to watch three high school young women competently mentor our little girls!”

Nickerson is genuinely drawn to coding.

“It gives me the opportunity to create instead of just consume. I like being able to think critically through problems and create something of my own,” Nickerson said. “(Also) it allows (girls) to explore the technology they use every day in a more intimate way.”  

To date, the National Center for Women & Information Technology has gifted more than $800,000 to 300 programs, providing an estimated 240,000 instruction hours to nearly 8,000 girls in more than 40 states.

“Beyond the generous grant from NCWIT, community support made this camp possible,” explained Johnson. “With River Place Elementary students already in summer classes at Cardinal Point, this new Four Points community’s education center was an ideal location to conduct the class. They provided us with a classroom and a few of their student laptops,” Johnson said.

STEMCampUSA also lent several more needed Chrome Books for the week of camp.   

The camp was a win for the community on many levels,  Johnson said, and it “all happened because of Amelia Nickerson’s initiative to teach girls code.”

Amelia Nickerson helps a young student during the week-long coding seminar she created.

Amelia Nickerson, rising Vandegrift junior (right back), created week-long coding seminar this summer for 4th and 5th grade girls.