Designed to give girls ages 9-13 a chance to explore the world of computers and to awaken their interest at an early age so that they will be able to take advantage of technology-learning opportunities in high school and college, as well as to help them consider jobs in these areas for their careers. Especially geared to low-income minority girls. Class size is limited to 12-14 girls who are active in YWCA programs.

The YWCA of Plainfield , NJ is part of this exciting national project.  For more information contact

Yolanda Fuller-McCloud at, or (908) 756-3500 x126.

YWCA’s TechGYRLS prepares participants for computer-dominated world

BYLINE: Dawn Klingensmith, Chicago Tribune

How do you get 24 girls who have just wrapped up a six-hour school day to sit still for more learning on a Friday after-noon?
Barbara Burton knows the answer: Put them in front of computers.
Burton supervises the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s new TechGYRLS club, designed to help girls from low-income families develop technical skills and encourage them to consider careers in computer technology.
Over the course of several weeks in the fall, Burton — who has worked in computer technology since 1980 — taught the girls that computers are portals to new worlds and endless possibilities.
In one project, the girls viewed online retail sites and used computer software to design their dream bedrooms.
“They navigated the Internet to find furniture,” Burton said. “I encouraged them to dream big.”
The girls did just that, downloading images of plasma televisions and whirlpool tubs to incorporate in their designs.
“I found three beds that I liked, so I bought them all,” said Kyla Sipp, 8.
But computers aren’t just portals to online shops.
“Our hope is that exposing girls to technology early in life will give them the tools, confidence and increased earn-ing potential they’ll need for a brighter future,” said Judith Lites Nelson, director of economic empowerment services for YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.
TechGYRLS — a national YWCA program developed in 1997 and offered in Chicago for the first time in Septem-ber — aims to increase the number of women in computer science and information technology careers and to narrow the digital divide that persists between communities that have access to information technology and those that do not, Nel-son said.
“Technology is something that’s going to become bigger and bigger, in every aspect of our lives,” she said. “There are lots and lots of opportunities for boys to be exposed to technology, but girls are being left behind.”
The TechGYRLS curriculum is designed so girls with limited exposure to technology will see its relevance to their lives and take to it immediately, Nelson added.
The dream bedroom project acquaints girls with several computer programs and skills. Participants are given an imaginary budget of $20,000, and they track their expenditures using Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets.
The girls search the Internet for downloadable photos of furniture, electronic components, linens and accessories. They also may use drawing software to create their own furnishings. They draw bedroom layouts and then digitally paste their furnishings in place.
Ari Gary, who participated in the inaugural TechGYRLS club from October through December, was thrilled to dis-cover that in the virtual world, it doesn’t matter if retailers don’t offer furnishings in her favorite color.
“With the computer,” said Ari, 8, “I learned how to change the color of” furniture to whatever she wants.
Other projects include animating five-day weather forecasts and using animation, fixed images and sound to create autobiographies.
The program culminates with a day of project presentations, which helps the girls hone their public speaking skills.
Timia Strickland, 10, applied her new computer skills right away.
“My mom and dad went to computer classes, but all they learned how to do is make documents,” she said. “So I went home and taught them how to use the Internet.”
Girls in 4th through 6th grades may enroll in the free program by submitting a parental consent form and attending a mandatory orientation. Two 14-week sessions will be offered each year at the Salvation Army Building at 945 W. 69th St., Chicago. The current session began in January, and the next will be offered in September. The program is open to anyone, and the YWCA hopes to expand it in fiscal year 2008, said Sarah Frick, a YWCA spokeswoman.
Sessions are limited to 24 girls — two clubs with 12 girls each — and each girl works on her own computer.
The clubs meet for two hours on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Fridays most or all of the girls attend optional “open lab” periods to work on projects.
The program receives funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; Microsoft Corp.; and the Motorola and Sara Lee Foundations.
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Women make up nearly half the workforce but account for less than 27 percent of computer and mathematics pro-fessionals. { +1} Girls ages 15 to 17 are more likely than their male peers to use e-mail, instant messaging and text mes-saging. { +2} In 2000, girls accounted for 17 percent of college-bound students who took the computer science Ad-vanced Placement Exam. { +3} In 2004, women received 17 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees, down from 19 percent in 2000. { +4} Thirty-six percent of African-American households had Internet access in 2003, com-pared with the national average of nearly 55 percent. { +5} 1. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2006 Current Population Survey. 2. They’re also more likely to use Internet search engines to find information about certain topics, including health, spirituality and entertainment, according to the 2005 report “Teens and Technology,” issued by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The report was based on a 2004 survey of 1,100 teens and their par-ents. 3. According to the American Association of University Women. 4. According to the Computing Research Asso-ciation. 5. According to the 2003 Current Population Survey.

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