Meet the Teen Advisory Board Graduating Class! Part 1

Written by volunteer writer Amy Freeman

Members of Techgirlz’ Teen Advisory Board (TAB) for the 2019-2020 term had a different experience than most. Just a couple of months after we introduced our new board members, the world shut down due to COVID. As several of our members prepare to head off to college in the next few weeks, we caught up with them to find out what they did during their last year in high school and what the future holds for them.

Today, we’re learning more about how Ameya Rao, Nicole Xiang, and Paige Burns spent their school year and what they plan to do next. Come back next week to learn about the plans of the other members of the TAB graduating class!

Ameya Rao

Ameya smiling for the camera in front of green trees

Ameya just finished her senior year at Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She plans on going to Duke University this fall to double major in computer science and public policy.

She notes that although her last year in high school was cut short, she was able to enjoy plenty of traditional senior activities during the first semester, such as homecoming, her last winter semi-formal, and senior breakfast. Her year was marked by several milestones as well, including celebrating her 18th birthday, getting accepted at her first-choice school, and having her speech and debate team host at a tournament at her school. At the end of the academic year, her school hosted a drive-through graduation parade and a socially distanced ceremony. She’s grateful for the experience, as it made her graduation all the more memorable.

Although her summer before college hasn’t been what she expected pre-COVID, she and a few of her friends have found a way to spend this time apart productively. She’s participating in a virtual Hack-A-Thon, developing an app to analyze the newly emerged risk of users leaving the house with regards to COVID-19.

Ameya says she loved being a member of the TAB this year. She loved the monthly meetings and the chance to meet and talk with “other girls from across the state and country who are just as passionate . . . about TechGirlz’s mission.” Although her fellow TAB members are geographically diverse, she was able to meet another member, Navya, who attended the same high school as her.

A highlight of her year as a TAB member was going to the Women in Tech Summit in Raleigh, where she taught a TechGirlz workshop on HTML and CSS. The “experience was really exciting for me because it was different than a usual workshop as occasionally, some of the professional women would peek in and watch us teach,” she says.

“The other two instructors and I were interviewed by a documentary filmmaker about our experiences in TechGirlz and what motivates us to keep volunteering. This really solidified that my goal as a TechGirlz volunteer was to ensure that younger girls became confident in their abilities and never doubted that they were anything less than capable!”

Ameya says being a member of the TAB has been “one of my favorite experiences over the past few years.” She recommends that other girls join as well, and encourages them to “teach many workshops, get to know the girls you teach, brainstorm ways to expand the program in your area, and make connections with your fellow TAB members!”

Nicole Xiang

Nicole in a graduation gown throwing her red cap into the air

Nicole Xiang, who plans on going to Carnegie Mellon University in the fall, where she’ll major in mathematical sciences with a concentration in operations research and statistics, believes that her senior year ended up being a really special year. The “unique way of ending the school year will last forever in our memory,” she says.

The year went by in a flash, with Nicole stating that it was the fastest year she’s experienced. She kept busy this school year, by participating in the National Honors Society, editing her school’s yearbook and leading several Science Olympiad events, including Circuit Lab and Machines, before COVID shut everything down.

Her senior year was Nicole’s third year as a member of TAB. She describes it as being “quite a journey.”

“Being on TAB gave me a lot of opportunities to explore the tech field and explore my interest in tech,” she says. “I was able to meet other women in tech and listen to their stories, which made me think about my past and future journey in the tech field. I was also able to create and teach workshops on many different topics which expanded my own interest and knowledge. Now that I am sure I will pursue tech in the future, I believe that TechGirlz, TAB, and the people I met through TAB played a big part in shaping my interest and future.”

Paige Burns

Paige standing in a snowy yard posing for the camera

Paige Burns’ last year as a high school student was a jam-packed one. She attended Peak to Peak Charter school in Lafayette, Colorado, where she participated in many extracurricular activities, in addition to fulfilling her responsibilities as a TAB member, applying to colleges, and spending time with her family.

Pais was an officer of the new Computer Science Honors Society at her high school. She started a program that sent high schoolers into Peak to Peak’s elementary school to teach technology lessons.

She was also the president of the Interact Club, a member of her school’s National Honors Society, a student crew leader, speech and debate team captain, and a member of her school’s varsity tennis team until COVID cut the season short, among several other activities.

She’s wrapping up her second year as a TAB member. Some of the highlights of her work as a board member include running a TechGirlz Arduino Programming week-long camp at the Innovation Center of St Vrain after applying for and receiving a grant from the National Center for Women in Information Technology last summer. She also created content for the TechGirlz Instagram account.

Looking ahead to the fall, Paige plans to go to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she’ll major in the school’s Integrated Business and Computer Science program, through the Leeds School of Business. She’s also hoping to stay involved with TechGirlz as a college student and hopes to initiate more workshops in Colorado.

Tune in next week to learn what the rest of the TAB graduating class has been up to!