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Girls Who Code program gains traction in Shreveport

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Kate Archer Kent
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Shreve Memorial Library is offering a new program to encourage more girls to be part of the next generation of computer scientists.

The library is collaborating with Moonbot Studios and technology firm Praeses to start a chapter of the national Girls Who Code program. Sixth grade girls through high school seniors meet Saturdays at the downtown Shreveport library for the two-hour Girls Who Code project-based computer programming curriculum. The girls are moving quickly through the lessons, according to Moonbot Studios developer Heather Shrewsbury, one of three volunteer instructors.

“I like the potential untapped interest of these girls and giving them an opportunity to have this exposure. We have girls who come from Longview and Arkansas. They drive for an hour on Saturday mornings just to have the opportunity to learn how to program,” Shrewsbury said.

The class is open to 20 girls. Only girls are allowed in -- no dads or boy siblings can tag along for coding. Those are club rules, Shrewsbury says. Fellow Moonbot Studios developer Kathryn Hardey wants the girls to realize that they have a place in the fast-paced, male dominated tech world.

“At the end of June, we hope that they can actually say they can make a program on their own. They don’t need to be handheld. They can say, I want to make this thing and they know how to make it,” Hardey said.

According to Girls Who Code, there’s a long way to go to close the gender divide. Just 14 percent of computer science majors are female, down from 37 percent in 1984. Shrewsbury wants the girls to be exposed to the field through her vision and demeanor.

“It can be intimidating and not everyone out there is nice. I like to think of it as a safe place for the girls to come, and not to be nurtured, but to be encouraged in a way that they might not get from a man,” Shrewsbury said.

The Shreve Memorial Library has a waiting list for the program.

Another Girls Who Code program is offered through Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral in Shreveport in partnership with the Northwest Louisiana Community Development Corporation.

There are more than 150 Girls Who Code clubs across the country that teach robotics, web design and mobile development.

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