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Amazon Helps Md. Students on Path to Computer Science Careers

Trinity Jones wants to represent not only women, but women of color in the computer science industry.

The 17-year-old and 13 of her fellow senior classmates at Gwynn Park High School completed Amazon’s Future Engineer program.

“I definitely want to break a glass ceiling,” Trinity, who will major in both computer science and government/political science this fall at University of Maryland in College Park, said Thursday while seated at a computer to review a previous assignment on coding. “Women can do this.”

Gwynn Park joined about 50 other high schools in the D.C. region who participated in the online retail giant’s program that seeks to help underserved communities and students of color pursue careers in computer science.

Thanks to Amazon providing the software and other resources, students took advanced placement (AP) courses which helped them to create a website and create code for a robot to go through a maze.

The school not only honored seniors who completed the course, but also received congratulatory words from Ardine Williams, vice president of workforce development at Amazon HQ2.

Ardine Williams (left), Amazon's vice president of workforce development, speaks with students who completed the company's Future Engineer program at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., on May 16. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Ardine Williams (left), Amazon’s vice president of workforce development, speaks with students who completed the company’s Future Engineer program at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., on May 16. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

“When you look around this room, this is a very, very rich population of both women and diversity,” she said. “As they finish college, we’re going to bring a more diverse workforce. In order to solve problems for customers, it is important they walk in the same shoes as our customers do.”

Williams said in an April 29 blog entry that several jobs in human resources, finance, corporate procurement and facilities are open at the company’s Arlington County, Virginia, office. The state won a bid for Amazon to build a second headquarters, which will bring 25,000 new jobs in at least the next decade.

The goal will be to start operations in its Crystal City office next month.

Amazon’s engineer program also provided $10,000 grants toward a robotics initiative through FIRST, which boost STEM education and host robotics competitions. The company announced last month 100 schools, including 25 in the D.C. region, received money for its location near an Amazon site and gets Title I money for educating a majority of low-income students.

In Prince George’s County, Central and High Point high schools garnered the grant to launch robotics teams.

The Amazon program began at Gwynn Park three years ago, and participants have garnered several certifications in programs such as JavaScript, MTA HTML5 and C sharp that would help them receive internships as first-year college students or earn entry-level positions in the computer industry.

Antoine Mensah, 18, plans to increase his knowledge of computer programming and web design at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, in the fall.

“I can make my own website, I can add things like a drop-down menu,” said Antoine, who will major in game and interactive media design. “Those are things I was able to learn [at Gwynn Park].”

The school’s eventual valedictorian has participated in the program each year. This year’s honor will go to Valeria Joel, 18, who will also attend the University of Maryland this fall and plans to student computer engineering.

Although figures show only 18 percent of women receive a bachelor’s degree in computer science, young women represent 40 percent of Gwynn Park’s program.

“The principal told me last week I’ll be the third valedictorian from the program,” said Joel, who moved to the United States from El Salvador at age 10. “There’s so many opportunities in computer science engineering. I can work on hardware and software. There’s not many women in the field, so it’s an opportunity to show the world we can do it as well.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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