32 Minnesota High School Students Honored in Fifth Annual Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards
Two Minnesota students named national winners and six named national honorable mentions as program sees continued growth
SAINT PAUL – February 2017
Advance IT Minnesota, the high-tech Center of Excellence in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, today announced the names of 32 high school students selected as winners and honorable mentions in the fifth annual Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards (AiC). The awards program honors young women in grades 9-12 for their computing-related achievements and interests in technology, and was started to support and encourage young women to pursue careers in technology. Completed applications increased to a record 109 this year, with honorees representing a diverse pool of school districts, backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages; depicting promise for employers in a growing global market.
Two young women received top honors as national winners through the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), placing in the top 1.4 percent in the nation from over 3,500 applicants.
The two Minnesota National Award winners receive various prizes, cash, and a trip to Bank of America headquarters on March 3-5, 2017, for a celebration and networking with Bank of America employees.
All Award honorees will be recognized at an April 18 ceremony at the Vadnais Heights Commons
This year’s state winners will be awarded tech devices, and all state honorees will receive prizes and job shadow experiences. Many will be hired as paid interns at Minnesota businesses. In addition, two honorees will be awarded a $4,000 scholarship, provided by local businesses, to attend any college in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.
State winners to be recognized during an April 18 ceremony at the Vadnais Heights Commons are:
- Elena Berman* from Orono; Senior at Breck School (Prior Minnesota Honoree)
- Celeste Dyrbye-Wright* from Rochester; Junior at Mayo High School
- Ashley Holton from Woodbury; Junior at East Ridge High School
- Maylat Kassa from Edina; Senior at Edina High School
- Archana Murali* from Golden Valley; Senior at Breck School (Prior Minnesota Honoree)
- Marie Pena from Apple Valley; Junior at Apple Valley High School
- Anna Peterson from Rosemount; Senior at Rosemount High School
- Preeti Pidatala* from Maple Grove; Sophomore at Wayzata High School
- Victoria Pierce from Eagan; Junior at Rosemount High School
- Alyissa Sanders* from Saint Paul; Junior at DeLaSalle High School
- Allison Sholl from Maple Grove; Senior at Wayzata High School
- Amanda Tommerdahl from Hendrum; Senior at Norman County West Secondary
- Maddie Wang from Roseville; Senior at Mounds View High School (2017 National Winner)
- Vanessa Wang from Richfield; Senior at Edina High School
* Depicts 2017 National Honorable Mention by NCWIT
Recipients receiving state honorable mention to be recognized during the April event:
- Anika Ahluwalia from Maple Grove; Sophomore at Wayzata High School
- Kemilyn Bayer from Bloomington; Senior at Kennedy High School
- Zoe Berg from Lakeville; Sophomore at Lakeville South High School
- Shelby Bjerke from Bemidji; Junior at Bemidji High School
- Anna Bunce from Savage; Senior at Burnsville High School
- Emily DeBoard from Burnsville; Junior at Apple Valley High School
- Aarathi Garimella from Edina; Junior at Edina High School
- Grace Hansen from Eagan; Sophomore at Eagan High School
- Priya Kumar from Apple Valley; Junior at Eastview High School
- Julia Nelson-Troska from Hutchinson; Senior at Hutchinson Senior High School
- Oreoluwa Odeyinka from Rochester; Junior at John Marshall High School
- Laura Rietveld from Rosemount; Senior at Rosemount High School
- Elizabeth Rivas from Kandiyohi; Senior at Willmar Senior High School
- Evelline Samson from Cottage Grove; Junior at the Math & Science Academy
- Tien VoNguyen from Columbia Heights; Senior at DeLaSalle High School
- Cathylin Wang from Plymouth; Junior at Wayzata High School
Also being recognized with a National Honorable Mention by NCWIT:
- Atalanta Stoeke from Apple Valley; Junior at Apple Valley High School (Prior Minnesota Winner)
Two educators will also be recognized at the April event for their demonstrated commitment to encouraging young women’s aspirations in computing. NCWIT rewards the State Education Winner with a cash prize to pay for computing-related professional development activities. Both educator honorees receive trophies and other Minnesota gifts.
All 109 Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Awards applicants have been invited to participate in the year-round Sustaining Passion, Ambition and Resolve for Career Success (SPARCS) program, which is funded by Aspirations sponsors. The program, designed for applicants with tech skills ranging from novice to experienced, provides an opportunity for young women to connect with mentors, develop new skills in technology, and participate in activities designed by female technologists with diverse jobs, skill sets, and backgrounds. SPARCS events feature fun ways to learn about databases, gaming, security, software development, Internet of Things (IoT), and more, using a myriad of technology tools in diverse environments.
“The Aspirations in Computing Awards Program shines a spotlight on emerging tech talent, while the complementary year-round SPARCS program serves as an incubator of sorts,” said Russell Fraenkel, director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships for Advance IT Minnesota. “SPARCS allows middle and high school girls the opportunity to explore technology, engage with women in the field, and form relationships with girls from other communities who have a passion for technology learning.”
Several major sponsors have contributed generously to support the Aspirations in Computing Awards and the SPARCS program this year, including Champion Partner Maverick Software Consulting, and Pillar Partners Veritas Technologies, Land O’Lakes, SPS Commerce, STEM Fuse, and the Upper Midwest Security Alliance. Additional major partners include BDPA –Twin Cities, Best Buy, Bellmont Partners, ESP IT, General Mills, Genesys Works, Girls in Tech – Twin Cities, Help/Systems, Hennepin County, Information Systems Security Association, LogicPD, Metropolitan State University IPD, Microsoft, Minnesota Computers for Schools, Minnesota High Tech Association, Pearson, PeopleNet, Securian, SUPERVALU, Target, TECHdotMN, Twin Cities Chapter of Women in Computing, The Nerdery, Thomson Reuters, and Unisys.
The deadline to become a 2017 sponsor is Friday, March 17. For more information on specific opportunities, visit www.advanceitmn.org/sponsors-aspirations-awards or contact Russell Fraenkel at Russell.Fraenkel@metrostate.edu.
About Advance IT Minnesota
Advance IT Minnesota engages employers, educators, technology professionals and learners to develop a more robust IT workforce in Minnesota. A Center of Excellence within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, it is hosted at the Metropolitan State University, St. Paul Midway campus. For more information, visit www.advanceitmn.org.
About National Center for Women & Information Technology
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a coalition of more than 850 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women’s participation in information technology (IT). To find out more, visit www.ncwit.org.