Apollo High School has been awarded the College Board’s AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award in recognition of expanding young women’s access to Advanced Placement computer science principles (CSP) and a commitment to engaging female students in computer science.
AHS principal Rick Lasley credited AP CSP teacher Michelle Pagan with making this achievement possible. Pagan said she believes it is important for girls to be engaged in computer science and related fields.
“Computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs are at an all-time high,” she said. “Helping young women learn to code gives them so much more than just learning how to create an app. They are learning problem-solving skills and learning that it’s OK to make mistakes. They also learn how to collaborate with others. Unfortunately, there are more men than women who are taking STEM courses — and jobs related to STEM are some of the highest-paying jobs. Having a coding background can make an applicant more interesting to potential employers. Girls do not realize that many large companies offer scholarships, jobs and internships for them.”
Pagan said she is committed to encouraging female students to explore these fields of study. With this only the third year they’ve offered AP CSP, the school is still developing awareness of the course.
“I am intentional about advocating for the course to students,” Pagan said. “They all have the potential to be successful in the course, females especially. Any person can take AP CSP, as long as they have passed Algebra 1. Some female students do not realize how good they are at coding until they take the course.”
Pagan also reaches out to female students through extracurricular activities.
“We also offer a club called Girls Who Code where we create a fun and welcoming environment,” she said. “Girls are welcome to come to the meeting every month and build programs to move robots, talk about their week, and laugh and have fun. This is our second year to offer the club.”
Pagan said earning the diversity award is meaningful to her because it represents the work of Apollo High School in making opportunities available to students in college, careers and in life.
“I have always strived for my students to be successful and give each of them confidence in their ability to achieve their goals,” she said. “I am proud that the number of female students who decided to take the course has increased since we started three years ago, and I hope this program continues to grow.”
According to the College Board, research shows that female students who take AP computer science courses are “more likely to major in computer science in college compared to female students of similar background and academic preparation who didn’t take AP computer science courses. Through (Apollo High School’s) leadership in diversifying computer science education, you are preparing your female students for the high-paying, in-demand jobs of the future and giving them the opportunity to help solve some of society’s most challenging problems.”