Middle schoolers welcome Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani

Girls Who Code CEO and founder Reshma Saujani visited the Ransom Everglades Middle School on Feb. 2 and answered questions from panels of middle schoolers about her upbringing, approach as an author (she wrote Brave, Not Perfect) and experience working with teen girls through Girls Who Code, the non-profit she founded to help close the gender gap in computer science.
Saujani met separately with sixth graders and students in grades seven and eight. Lily Merrick '29 welcomed Saujani to the first roundtable at Swenson Hall, inviting her to the stage where she joined Lee Harper '29, Dottie Spencer-Funchion '29 and Sofiya Dewan '29 for discussion and questions. Webber Druckerman '28 provided the welcome to the second roundtable with seventh and eighth graders Sukhari Afflick '27, Andrea Guajardo '28 and Nico Castillo '27. Many students also asked questions from the audience.

Saujani let students know that if not for two failed political campaigns – defeats she described as "heartbreaking" and "devastating" because of her passion for public service – she would not have founded or taken over the helm of Girls Who Code, which has grown from 20 female coders in 2012 to more than 600,000 at some 10,000 coding clubs around the world. The Wall Street Journal named her the Technology Innovator of 2014. “You can try something and it doesn’t necessarily work out,” she told students, “but that doesn’t mean it breaks you.”

She confessed she was still tempted by the idea of running for public office. "I'm terrified of losing again," she admitted.

"That shouldn't stop you!" A sixth grader piped up.

During her campaigns – she ran for the House of Representatives District 14 in New York in 2010 and New York Public Advocate in 2013 – she observed the gender imbalance between boys and girls in computer science classes when visiting high schools. Seeing that disparity first-hand also led her to write Brave, Not Perfect. “My writing process is basically, I get really angry about something and I start writing about it,” she said. “I see an injustice, I see a problem, and I start wondering why.”

She told students that her parents’ journey to the United States shaped her desire to serve the public good. Born in Uganda, her parents were expelled with other people of Indian descent by dictator Idi Amin. Both engineers, they received refugee status in the United States and settled in Illinois. She recalls reading books with her father about changemakers such as Gandi, Nelson Mandela and Eleanor Roosevelt.

“From the time I was little,” she said, “I had this desire to make a difference in the world.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.