Kathryn Barrett is one of two Chapter Leads for Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code and has helped us introduce hundred of kids to code and other technical skills. Here is her story:
Growing up as a young girl, I always idolized people who were older than me. It was natural to gravitate towards wisdom, practicality, maturity and sensibility – and in most environments, I was taught that age was something to admire and look up to. I idolized my parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, crossing guards, and basically anyone older than me that could make me smile and think to myself: “I can’t wait to grow up so I can be just like them.”
In August 2012, I was a month away from turning twenty one and mentored at my first Girls Learning Code event. It was a summer camp dedicated to teaching young girls how to brainstorm and create online games, as well as use multiple resources to feel confident about using technology. Coming from a very diverse tech background, I saw this as a fun opportunity to offer my skills to a younger generation, as well as connect with the extraordinary women at Ladies Learning Code. It wasn’t until later on in the week that I started to realize I was becoming an idol to some of these girls, and it was nothing less than an indescribable feeling. Not too long after that, I realized that the forty-some-odd girls that attended, even as young as 7 years old, were becoming my idols as well. They were incredibly smart, energetic and enthusiastic, and I found myself constantly thinking “I wish I was young again so I could be just like them.”
Since then, I have volunteered at a variety of Girls Learning Code workshops, ranging from 3D printing, to atechnology based overnight sleepover. It has taught me to idolize both the old and the young, and appreciate both kinds of minds and their creativity.
First and foremost, mentoring to me has meant being a role model to a younger generation and offering them the ability to think with an open mind with admired individuality. After speaking with many other mentors at Girls Learning Code workshops, all of us have hoped to be known as big sisters rather than teachers or parents – we all want to guide the girls as if they were our younger selves. In a technology based world that is constantly changing, everyone (old and young) should feel confident in using everyday tools, and be given the opportunity to make a difference.
I was super excited to join Laura Plant and the team at Ladies Learning Code as a Girls Learning Code Chapter Lead back in April, producing fun and personalized environments to inspire girls to be resourceful makers. I feel motivated every single day to push the standards of what the tech industry has to offer younger generations, and to create opportunities that I didn’t have myself as a young girl. Even though my role as a mentor has grown into so much more, I still look forward to workshop weekends and engaging the girls in (what I think is) awesome content and raising their overall self esteem.
The world is such a fascinating place with such fascinating tools! And you never know when you’re going to meet your next idol.