by Tasha Candela
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
Prior to the 2010-11 school year, I did not know the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) existed. It was my technology director, Fran Hubert, who sent a web design contest flyer to my inbox. Hundreds of professional development opportunities and contests grace my desk annually. This one was no different. And it certainly was not printed on neon paper adorned with glitter flecks. But web design is my favorite class to teach so I jumped at this chance. It was a choice that I will never forget.
It is not the contest itself that fills my heart with admiration for MCWT. It is the countless volunteers who sacrifice family and work time to provide these teenagers with an authentic learning opportunity. The professionals at MCWT truly love giving back to others and their generosity is displayed through both their words and works. They have collected technology volunteers from widely known technology companies to grade student websites. They have offered job shadowing experience and internship opportunities. They have promoted my students through newspaper articles, blogs, and radio interviews. Above all, they have helped make my students’ career dreams come true by supporting them financially through scholarships and prize money.
The web design contest gives students the opportunity to create a 5-page website that will be judged by industry gurus. Twenty-four finalists from across the state are selected to compete for cash prizes. I am certain money is a motivating factor which contributes to our success in the competition. However, I believe the competition designers, the people behind the scenes, are the ones who truly created an ingenious idea. Announce a themed competition, develop guidelines, step back, and watch magic happen. I have never watched students work as hard, problem solve, and collaborate as much in my eight years of teaching sixteen different subject areas. They yearn to learn.
I have proof of this desire as 20 of my 23 female web design students (twelve teams) became finalists in this year’s Repurposing: The Ultimate in Creativity and Recycling-themed competition. From the advanced category, the finalists were Caitlin Beirne, Jessica Old, Jackie Kwapisz, Brooke Glass, Dasha Jones, Hailey Lynch, Gabby Bourgeois, Gabby Lopreiato, Megan Kovalcik, Maddisyn Zimmerman. From the beginner category, the finalists were Kara Roelofson, Payton Beigler, Rachel Felder, Lilly Kwapisz, Lauren Malicsi, Kara Burns,Veronica Steinmetz, Divine Mathes and Hailey Krause, and Lauren Woodard. In total, Lake Shore won $1,200 in cash prizes. Caitlin Beirne, advanced finalist and 2nd place winner said, “MCWT’s contest gave us an amazing opportunity. I was able to get a chance to create a website, hear from important companies where technology plays a major role, and I am so proud of our accomplishments.”
Mitch Albom wrote, “Stardom is a funny thing here. You don’t achieve it by talking loud or dating a supermodel. You achieve it by shyly lowering your head when they introduce you or tossing the ball to the refs after scoring a touchdown. ” Through the continual actions of the people serving MCWT, I believe this organization has reached stardom. Three time Lake Shore Alum finalist and current Wayne State University student Eva Smith posted on social media, “I am so proud of the Lake Shore girls for working hard on their sites and presentations. The MCWT web competitions continue to provide amazing opportunities for young women. It has been an honor to work with them throughout my years in high school and I hope I can continue to work with them in some way in the future!”
The Michigan Council of Women in Technology strives to inspire and grow women in technology fields, with an inspirational vision to make Michigan the No. 1 state for women in technology. The organization supports Michigan’s female IT workforce, students, corporate partners, schools and the overall community with networking, learning, mentoring, and technology experiences for professionals and students. It also provides programs and funds supporting the education and orientation of young women throughout school and fostering women in various stages of their professional lives. Find more information at www.mcwt.org and connect via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and www.mcwtblog.org.