Mellichamp Elementary School

Mellichamp Elementary School Principal Hayward Jean high fives a student on her technological work during the recent INTech camp for girls.

T&D CORRESPONDENT JORDON BRANCH

Ambassadors for Teach for America and Mellichamp Elementary School recently hosted an INTech technology day camp for middle school girls.

INTech, founded by Khalia Braswell, focuses on inspiring young girls to become innovative in the technology fields.

Braswell, a former Apple intern, says her technology work experience taught her “there's not a lot of women in the technology field.”

Despite her lack of exposure to other women in her field, Braswell continues to make efforts to diversify the industry. She’s currently pursuing a Computer Science degree at North Carolina State and working as a freelance web designer.

“I wanted to expose more girls at an early age to technology," Braswell said of the INTech camp. "I wanted to show the camp scholars that they can combine technology with whatever they are passionate about to create a career."

In addition to working on coding, web design and HTML development, the camp allowed the girls to listen to a panel of women technology scholars.

The panelists, all employees of the Red Ventures Company in Charlotte, shared that only 20 percent of workers in the tech field are women.

Panelist Shekinah Smith, a junior front-end web developer at Red Ventures, discussed why she chose to speak with the young girls.

“For me, when I was the girls' age, I didn't see many women in tech and I didn't think it was an option as a career," she said.

She said she hopes to show the middle school students that being a woman in the technology field isn’t an “abstract idea.”

Mellichamp Elementary School Principal Hayward Jean said the camp’s goals align with his school’s vision.

“The Mellichamp vision is to cause all students to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set about their education. INTech instills an entrepreneurial spirit inside of each young lady,” he said.

“The experience today is electrifying and empowering for our students and has inspired me to go deeper in giving all my students access to opportunities that will broaden their educational experiences,” Jean added.

Several Teach for America Ambassadors attended the camp to show their support for the girls. Each year, the ambassadors are tasked with holding major events. This year, they decided to focus their efforts on a community collaboration in South Carolina that would focus on both minorities and women.

Their decision birthed a total of three INTech day camps in the Kingstree, Walterboro and Orangeburg areas.

“The tech camps were organized in partnership with Teach For America South Carolina and INTech around six months ago, with the goal of bringing new opportunities in STEM and computer science to rural communities throughout South Carolina,” Teach for America alumna Jaishri Shankar said.

Teach for America Ambassador Matt Cheek said the camp gives young girls exposure to opportunities normally only given in larger areas.

“We don't have the opportunities of Apple and Microsoft that big cities have. It's all about exposure,” he said.

Alexis Gaetano, an eighth-grade student at Sedgefield Middle School who aspires to develop apps, said the INTech experience helped her to see why women are needed in technology.

“I think it will help to have more points of view in the technology industry,” she said.

Raven Smith, a fifth-grade Mellichamp student and an aspiring game and website developer, said she learned that "girls can do what boys can do and that I can go to a place with a whole bunch of males and work with them.”

Shankar said she hopes to bring more opportunities to Orangeburg in the future. Braswell also has plans to extend the INTech camp to Virginia and Georgia next year.

To find out more about the INTech camp, visit http://intechcamp.co/.

Contact the writer: Jordone.Branch@yahoo.com.

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