This is the last in a three-part series of posts from our Founder & CEO, Anvita Gupta, on LITAS’s 2016 summer incubators in CS + Entrepreneurship for middle and high school girls. You can find the first post here and the second here.

Lasting Impressions (AKA Becoming Not a Robot)

As a scientist and researcher, I have a natural tendency to try to quantize everything; data is my best friend. After a year of embracing data in CS at Stanford, I felt somehow that I was turning into some stoic and robotic human — always completely in control of my feelings. But my experiences with LITAS this summer showed me that this was not the case.

I’ll give you an example: out of the eighty girls who took part in the LITAS summer incubators (both sessions), only two (2.5%) had previous experience in coding of any sort. So when a guest speaker in Phoenix asked how many students were interested in CS before LITAS, I wasn’t surprised when only a few girls put up their hands. What was surprising to me (and him) was that when he asked how many girls wanted to continue with CS after LITAS, every girl in the room raised her hand.

It was a moment that really allowed me to step back from the day to day operations of the camp, and just realize that this whole week, these incubators and the organization I was building, could and were going to have a farther reaching impact than I ever could have predicted. I was so proud, and so humbled, I might have choked up.

This summer also taught me so much about the sheer resilience of kids all over the world. In the India incubator, some of the girls were daughters of maids and workers who made less than 1 US Dollar a day. A quarter of the girls who took part in the Phoenix Summer Incubator came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds; about 15% came from a housing center for victims of domestic violence. But to see the performance of these girls in the class, no one would have imagined the hardships they faced. The only, deeply saddening clue was that the girls from the domestic violence shelter in Phoenix chose to make a website on healing cuts and bruises. These girls and their spontaneity, their desire to learn, made me consider just how much socioeconomic status is a lottery, and how given the right opportunities, any child can excel.

Don’t Say Goodbye; Say “See you Soon” Instead.

As the summer comes to a close, LITAS has grown more than I could have imagined. We have a network of more than a hundred and fifty student ambassadors, made up of alumni from our summer incubators, after-school clubs, and Technology showcases. We’ve just opened three new alumi-led chapters of LITAS, two national and one international, with the goal of running computer science clubs and workshops for middle and high school girls all around the world. Each club is sending teams to our Technology Showcase, and teaching in a way that propagates this project-based learning approach which we’ve found to be so successful.

Of course, this could not have been possible without our partners — CO+HOOTS in Phoenix and CLDAV Schools in Panchkula, our guest speakers and mentors like Joan Koerber-Walker from AZBIO, and our sponsors– Society for Science and the Public, and I’d just like to thank them here.

As for me, I’ve had experiences this summer which I’ll never be able to replicate — from struggling to explain Javascript in Hindi to eating absurd amounts of ice cream with my Phoenix Incubator girls. I’m so appreciative to have had the opportunities and knowledge in CS that I’ve had, and I’m ecstatic that I have gotten to pass these opportunities on to a new group of girls, the future leaders in Computer Science. And I can’t wait to continue and see how LITAS grows.