Vel Phillips Memorial High School earned the College Board's 2021-22 AP® Computer Science Female Diversity Award this week for expanding young women’s access to the AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) course.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) women earn only 18 percent of computer science bachelor's degrees in the United States, so the earlier courses are available to students, the better.
I think that diversity in STEM is important because it allows for different perspectives within the field.
Zoe Jester, Vel Phillips Memorial sophomore
The AP CSP course is relatively new to Vel Phillips; according to math teacher Joe King, there were not enough students signed up to offer the class until after the first year of the pandemic. One of the advantages of the class is that it is intended to be the first AP course students take in STEM. There are no computer science prerequisites and very little math background, King said.
“With AP CSP, we have the ability to really diversify the classroom and meet all students at a good entry point to the STEM field,” King said. “We focus on collaborating with others and completing projects that involve pair programming, peer feedback, and learning from each other.”
Sophomore Zoe Jester is currently enrolled in Mr. King’s AP CSP course, inspired by her coding experiences through summer camps and a world robotics league called FIRST Tech Challenges.
“I think that diversity in STEM is important because it allows for different perspectives within the field,” Jester said. “Oftentimes, women and other underrepresented communities in STEM are looked down upon, disregarded, and talked over.”
After high school, Jester plans on attending college to study computer science and/or engineering. She believes underrepresented groups can also find spaces where they are respected and seen, like her current robotics team and Mr. King’s AP CSP course.
“You deserve to be there, and you are just as smart and capable as anyone else there,” Jester said. “Take the course and help to lift up the opinions of people in STEM who are often overlooked.”
Looking forward, King hopes course interest will continue to grow and require another session of AP CSP.
“Students who take AP classes are more likely to attend college, finish college, and attain careers in their field following college,” King said. “So I hope that students will use this class as a springboard to success both here at VPM and beyond.”
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