Laura is the middle child of eight, which, according to her birth order, means she is a good arbitrator, logical, and can easily see multiple sides of an issue. Because there are three and nine years between Laura and her nearest sisters, she is also like a first-born, one who is responsible and will do the right thing. Laura Wilson has all of those attributes and much more...She knows how to code.
For those of us in the blogging world, the ability to code (use HTML, CSS and other things I don't know how to use) is extremely helpful. It means we don't need to pay someone to make our websites do what we want them to do and look the way we'd like them to look. Laura is a high school student who knows how to do amazing things with coding, far beyond website changes. Among many other things, Laura has created an educational app, "Suggestion Box" for her school so kids can make anonymous suggestions of things they'd like to see changed at school, an alarm clock that flashes red LED numbers just like the ones we see in stores, and a variety of games. She has her own website, maintains a 3.85 GPA, is a member of the National Honor Society, takes multiple Advance Placement courses, and, when I asked her what problem in the world she wanted to cure through her knowledge of coding, she said Alzheimer's so she could help her grandfather who was diagnosed with the disease in 2005.
During my interview with Laura, I continued to be struck by her accomplishments, her modesty and her maturity. Laura is applying to 14 colleges (Columbia is #1 on her list) and will likely major in Computer Science. She's come a long way from her prior misconceptions about Computer Science being "an old man in a dark environment coding zeroes and ones." Laura has been featured in The Daily Beast, The New York Post, had the opportunity to participate in a variety of coding workshops at Spotify and Microsoft, attended the Paley Center For Media's "Cracking The Code: Media's portrayal of Women in STEM, was invited to a private screening of the movie,"The Imitation Game," attended Glamour's Woman of the Year awards ceremony, and (in her spare time?) volunteered at Mount Sinai in the pathology department. When asked who inspires her, she immediately said Barack Obama. She has a photograph of him at Barnard's graduation to remind herself that she can obtain the degree she wants and become the success she desires.
As a former educator, I would be remiss not to mention how Laura got into coding: Her high school guidance counselor recommended her for the Girls Who Code summer immersion during her sophomore year. Since that time, Laura's life has been filled with workshops sponsored by Spotify, Microsoft, (Microsoft awarded her with a laptop in 2013 when she did not have access to a computer in her home), Girls Who Code, Code Now and Built By Girls. She has also participated in various "Hack-A-Thons" where 200+ high school students come together for coding competitions. Laura remarked that she really enjoys these collaborative opportunities and that, "You don't have to be a winner to come home happy."
How does Laura want others to view coding? "I'm hoping that other girls will see that coding is not just for men, that girls can do it, too. Only 2% of people in computer-related fields are women right now, but women come up with many great ideas that can change the world." I'd say Laura Willson is on her way to do just that.