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Indian-American teen presented with Champions of Change Award

Champions of Change

Washington: A 15-year-old Indian-American girl has been honoured by the White House with the prestigious “Champions of Change” award for empowering the community by imparting Internet coding through her non-profit organisation.

A junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Swetha Prabakaran was among the eleven young women selected by the White House as “Champions of Change” who are empowering their communities.

“When I took my first Computer Science class in high school, I didn’t think that one day I’d be the one teaching kids to code. I really wanted other girls to have strong mentors and exposure to tech the way I did,” Swetha told PTI after receiving the award.

Swetha is the Founder and CEO of Everybody Code Now!, a non-profit working to empower the next generation of youth to become engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs.

“Under Swetha’s direction, Everybody Code Now! has taught hundreds of students how to code and has raised thousands of dollars for STEM activities in schools,” the White House said.

“Through Everybody Code Now!, I’ve been able to teach hundreds of kids to code and helped bring more science and engineering activities to schools,” she said.

“I’ve seen elementary school girls who had never heard of programming blossom into confident students building websites about their favourite sports or animals and watched the quietest students become the classroom leaders,” said Swetha, whose parents immigrated to the US from Tamil Nadu in 1998.

Swetha said she would never have entered computer science if she hadn’t seen powerful women in this field from an early age, such as her mother and her freshman Computer Science teacher.

“Being able to see women I admired and looked up to in this space gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my love for computer science,” she said.

“By 2020, we’ll have more than 1.4 million tech jobs in the US, but girls still hesitate to enter engineering and technology due to stereotypes,” she noted.

“Without encouraging more young women to enter programming, we will never be able to fill those positions. It was in that moment that my non-profit, Everybody Code Now!, was born,” Swetha said.

PTI