Since Lanier High opened in 2010, teacher Mike Reilly has focused on drawing more women into the engineering and computer science classes.
“It’s been a very intentional effort, and part of it’s selfish,” he said. “I have two girls of my own.”
Reilly’s efforts have been so successful that the Sugar Hill school was recently given the College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for achieving high female representation among students taking AP computer science courses and exams. Lanier was the only Gwinnett school to receive the award.
“We recognize that girls in middle and high school need a push or a pull to get into the tech world,” he said. “So we’ve had some programs to make sure they’re involved.”
One approach has been a girls-only computer science group with mentoring at its core.
“By connecting students to role models, that often helps them get more involved,” said Reilly. “Our corporate supporter, State Farm, has many of their women participate as role models. And we also have many former students who have gone onto college and jobs in the industry who reach back to our group.”
The school has also recruited female students to be part of its robotics team.
“We have about 100-plus in that group, and it’s about 50% girls,” said Reilly. “In fact, we’re really proud that we’re about 50-50 in everything we do.”
The recent award isn’t the first one the school received for a girls’ initiative. Reilly was named teacher of the year by the National Center for Women and Information Technology for supporting girls who want to study computer science. In 2013, a quarter of the Georgia winners from the same organization’s Girls Aspiration Awards came from Lanier.
Getting more girls involved in technology is also part of a district-wide push, said Sallie Holloway, director of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science, a job created about two years ago when the Gwinnett schools implemented a computer science-for-all program.
“We’re being strategic by having all our cluster schools offer computer science,” she said. “We’re working on increasing the number of certified teachers and providing training for schools so they have the resources to teach these classes. Lanier does a great job of recruiting students and making spaces where all kids have a place to come in with their interests and backgrounds. And we have passionate teachers who are invested in robotics, computer science and engineering competitions outside the classroom.”
Holloway said that women account for about 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees and make up just 28% of the STEM workforce.
“So Lanier is getting closer to closing that gap,” she said, “and that’s an exciting step.”
Information about Lanier High is online at gcpsk12.org/LanierHS.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com