Coding Camp for Girls empowers females with technological opportunities

Women Empowering Women will host the upcoming Coding Camp for Girls in June at Dickinson Middle School.

In this file photo, a computer sits on a desk inside a classroom. Women Empowering Women is hoping to inspire girls and the importance of technology with an upcoming Coding Camp for Girls in June.
In this file photo, a computer sits on a desk inside a classroom. Women Empowering Women is hoping to inspire girls and the importance of technology with an upcoming Coding Camp for Girls in June.
Dickinson Press file photo
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DICKINSON — As a way to empower young female minds on the benefits of technology, a group of leaders will join forces to host the first ever Coding Camp for Girls in June. The camp will also feature the 6th Annual Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education.

In collaboration with the Roughrider Area Career and Tech Center, Women Empowering Women will host 14 girls from across southwest North Dakota from June 6 through June 10 at Dickinson Middle School. On June 9, Gov. Doug Burgum will stop by to visit with the girls and then host the Governor’s Summit at the school, which aims to bring together local and national leaders in education to share best practices and engage with educators, administrators, parents and students. The summit will be free and open to the public.

In order to host this first-ever summer technology camp, Women Empowering Women President Ray Ann Kilen noted that they had to secure funding through various state grants for non-traditional education and fundraise a match to reach about $19,000.

Each one of the girls will go home with a notebook computer, which will allow them to continue their education. Due in part to the funding raised, each girl signed up to attend will be able to do so at no cost.

“Part of the reason we wanted to not charge admission and leave these girls with their computers in addition to technology upgrades is that we really were sensitive to disparity of opportunity between girls who are… in homes where maybe they’re economically disadvantaged,” Kilen said. “... If you come from a financially vulnerable house, you may not have the ability to attend camp or to afford a computer. And so, we just wanted to take all those barriers away because we really want to expose girls to (other) careers. Not everybody wants to be a nurse.”


The girls participating in the camp are entering either their sophomore or junior year of high school in the fall, and will learn from technology instructor Sandy Bertelsen. From building projects with Circuit Playground and learning basic introductory information, Bertelsen noted that the camp is going to be mostly hands on.

“It’s to let them know or to get them to understand that it isn’t just for men,” Bertelsen said.

Due to the shortage of programmers out there, Bertelsen noted that it’s important to get all interested people involved and show them what careers are available.

When Women Empowering Women began to gain some momentum, Bertelsen was a member and she wanted to host a coding camp for girls.

“We're trying to be very supportive of women in all areas of life and we have a really neat thing going for older ladies. We have some things going for college students. We have things going for kind of everybody, but (with) that young high school student (and) those younger ladies, I felt as if we needed to bring them in too,” Bertelsen said.

With industries changed in western North Dakota, Kilen noted that a background in technology is so important. Kilen said she hopes this camp will also stimulate curriculum growth within the school systems in southwestern North Dakota.

“Young women in western North Dakota that are having an interest in technology that don’t want to leave the area, there’s jobs here. They can grow into those,” Kilen said. “It used to be (that) you taught, you’re a nurse or you’re a secretary because that’s what the jobs were. Now, you can be a biologist, you can be a chemist, you can be a coding person… The concept of introducing girls to alternative opportunities in employment, to me, is huge.”

Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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