When it comes to summertime, most parents probably do not want to see their teenagers spending a lot of time on the computer. But, when that time is used to develop skills and tools to pursue a career in technology, a little extra screen time can surely be forgiven.
At SUNY Buffalo State Friday, 28 young women graduated from AT&T Coding Your Future. It's a program organized in partnership with WNY STEM Hub, Buffalo Urban League, Journey's End Refugee Services and, of course, AT&T and Buffalo State.
AT&T Coding Your Future was offered to 28 girls in Western New York as a way to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM fields and help close the gender and diversity gap in WNY's tech workforce.
That workforce is made up of only about 25 percent women, according to AT&T.
"If you do not have a STEM education, many jobs are simply not available to you," Kevin Hanna, AT&T's regional director of external affairs, explained.
All of the girls are immigrants or refugees who recently resettled in WNY.
"We can appreciate the struggles that you've had to overcome to even get here and to continue with your education and your American dream," Karen Andolina Scott, executive director of Journey's End, said.
"You have learned how to use the next generation's pencil," Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said. "It is coding. This is the language, this is the tool you need to be able to succeed in future jobs."
Eita Nanda and her family left Burma and spent five years in a refugee community in Malaysia. They eventually made it to WNY, where she is preparing to enter her first year at Canisius College.
"It seemed hard, the coding and everything," Nanda said. "It seemed complicated. But, now it seems really easy with the help of a lot of people."