The Virginia/Washington, D.C., affiliate of the National Center for Women in Information Technology recently held its 3rd annual Award for Aspirations in Computing ceremony during the Capital Area Professional Women in Computing Conference.

The event, held at Virginia Commonwealth University, honored a high school teacher and 18 high school students for their efforts to, respectively, teach and learn computer science.

The affiliate includes founding members George Mason University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia, as well as members James Madison University, Norfolk State University, University of Richmond, and Virginia State University. Barbara Ryder, head of Virginia Tech’s computer science department, is a member of the center's Pacesetters program, dedicated to increasing the number of women in computer science. The Department of Computer Science is part of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering.

Organizing the event was Mary Lou Soffa of the University of Virginia. Ryder served on the organizing committee, as did Libby Bradford, director of external relations and undergraduate studies for the computer science department.

Dan Tra of West Falls Church, Va., a teacher at Falls Church High School, received the 2014 Outstanding Educator award from the affiliate. 

Student winners were:

  • Sreya Atluri and Maddie Zug, both of Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria; 
  • Megan Charity and Cassidie Civil, both of Deep Run High School in Glen Allen;
  • K.C. Cowan of Colonial Forge High School in Stafford;
  • Alayna Fortuck of Midlothian High School in Midlothian;
  • Alexandra Hsain of Colonial Heights High School in Colonial Heights;
  • Mary Susannah Jones of Buckingham County High in Buckingham;
  • Monica Karas and Silu Tang, both of Battlefield High School in Haymarket;
  • Jennifer Louie of Chancellor High School in Fredericksburg;
  • Annabelle Marsh of Westfield High School in Chantilly;
  • Alexis Melio of Norview High School in Norview;
  • Natalie Oldenburg of Bishop O’Connell Catholic High School in Arlington;
  • Akila Prayaga of Langley High School in McLean;
  • Michelle Vaccaro of McLean High School in McLean;
  • Tianna Woodson of Manassas Park High in Manassas Park; and
  • Lillian Xu of Western Albemarle High School in Crozet;

Student runners-up were:

  • Cindy Bang and Michelle Lynskey, both of Falls Church High School in Falls Church;
  • Amanda Barkan of South Lakes High School in Reston;
  • Emily Bertrand of Colonial Forge High School in Stafford;
  • Corinne Brodowski of Semper Doctrina in Purcellville;
  • Mia Brunal of Albemarle High School in Charlottesville;
  • Niara-Maysa Chambers and Elizabeth Gohmert, both of Powhatan High School in Powhatan;
  • Jiwon Choi, Satvika Kumar, and Haley Stumvoll, all of Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria;
  • Peyton Cooper, Katiya Goodman, and Amanda Husak , all of Deep Run High School in Glen Allen;
  • Catherine Cura of Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn;
  • Morgan Davis of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in Suffolk;
  • Angela Li of Western Albemarle High in Crozet;
  • Piper Sigrest of Osbourn Park High School in Manassas;
  • Arshiya Singh of Henrico High School in Richmond;
  • Ksenia Sokolova of Oakton High School in Vienna;
  • Brook Vess of Rockbridge County High School in Lexington; and
  • Karen Xu of Manassas Park High in Manassas Park.

The event was funded with $500 in seed money from the national organization, with additional support and gifts for winners provided by Bank of America, Genworth Financial, Google, Heyo, Northrop Grumman, and SWIFT.

Winners received prizes from multiple companies, as well as gift cards for Amazon and Google. Each winner received two trophies: one for the winner and one to be displayed at her high school.

At the ceremony, the honorees heard from three previous national winners, including two Virginia Tech computer science students, Allison Collier of Fredricksburg, and Kara Vaillancourt of Hamilton.

The award honors young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Awardees are selected for their computing and information technology aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

On the national level, the award is part of the center’s talent development program that encourages young women to succeed in a field where they are underrepresented. It provides winners with visibility, community, leadership opportunities, support, research experiences, scholarships, and internships.

Winners of the Virginia/Washington, D.C., regional Award for Aspirations in Computing are offered a $1,000 renewable scholarship if they choose to study at Virginia Tech’s computer science department, said Ryder. Virginia Tech is the only university in Virginia to offer this type of scholarship.

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