Girls Can Code: Computer Science at KIPP

Sophia Chuong (far right), Grade 10 at KIPP Navigate, with her mother and brother

I’ve lived my entire life with my mother and brother in San José. My favorite subjects in school are english, geometry, and biology. Outside of school, I like to draw and listen to music. I’m a self-taught artist, and I like sketching and putting my own artistic spin on what I see in the world. 

I had my first computer science class back in sixth grade at KIPP Heritage. In 8th grade I took a tour of KIPP Navigate and choose my elective. Because of my middle school experience, I felt like I would understand computer science best. But I was in for a surprise!

In movies, computer science looks easy. They just type everything super quick while intense music plays in the background. After a few seconds, they yell “Got it!” and the entire problem is solved. I thought computer science would be like that. I discovered it was much more than what I saw on TV or what I’d learned in 6th grade. There were so many “languages” and methods to learn. It was very confusing and a lot to take in. The class was moving fast, and I was trying to process it all. It was very frustrating not understanding what was being taught. 

She’s giving us a really amazing opportunity to create a better future for ourselves.

I reached out to my teacher Ms. Visa for help, she was incredibly supportive. She is a very kind and thoughtful person who always makes sure she doesn’t leave any students behind. She also encourages many female students to go into computer science or other STEM fields. I find that really motivating because she’s using her own time to teach and promote computer science to those who wouldn’t normally have access to it. She’s giving us a really amazing opportunity to create a better future for ourselves.

Through hard work and with Ms.Visa’s help, I understand computer science a lot more now. I’ve learned a lot from her like Java and Method loops, which tells a program how long to run a specific code, so the whole project works correctly.

Screen Shot of my game, Escape Room

In computer science, I’ve also found new ways to apply my love of art. Last year, we created a game for a project. I created an escape room! I designed my own panels, used a pixel concept to draw images for my game, and planned out the code so everything would transition from each screen. You can play the game here! My art skills were really useful because I wanted to go for an intentionally pixelated concept. I hand drew each frame the game would need and uploaded them to my computer. I also coded the entire game myself.

Computer science excites me for a lot of reasons. It tests my patience and requires me to think a lot about different methods. It is actually very similar to solving a puzzle (and I like puzzles). I enjoy that computer science tests you to see if you know the correct method to apply to situations and solve the problem. Of course, it can still frustrate me sometimes, but I like a little challenge. This year has offered its own set of challenges, but I feel very confident because I have support from my teachers and a strong foundation in computer science. 

Next year I’ll be entering my junior year. I’m kind of scared because I’ve heard that junior year of high school can be very stressful. I’ll probably be busy getting ready to apply to college. I’m actually starting to feel old just thinking about it! But I’m also really excited about seeing my friends in person again and checking out the school’s new campus and experiencing a more traditional high school life.

I’ve also started to think about what the rest of my life will look like. I don’t have any concrete plans but I do know that I want to go to a really good university. I want to go to college, get a good job that will allow me to take care of and travel with my family, overall living a good life.

This year has offered its own set of challenges, but I feel very confident because I have support from my teachers and a strong foundation in computer science.

I know that there are a lot of young women and girls right now thinking about pursuing computer science. I would like to tell them that although computer science may be a difficult class at first if you put your mind to it and reach out to those around you, you’ll be able to succeed because you’re not the only one struggling. You shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask for help, because you have an entire community that wants to help and support you. 


Sophia Chuong is in the class of 2023 at KIPP Navigate(9-12) and an alum of KIPP Heritage (5-8). In her free time, she enjoys drawing and hanging out with her family and friends. 

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