Volunteer Spotlight: Neeha Kurelli

Written by volunteer writer Amy Freeman

Neeha smiling for the camera in an outdoor setting
For Teen Advisory Board (TAB) member and TechGirlz TA Neeha Kurelli, computer science courses at her high school proved to be just the tip of the technology iceberg. In her Comp Sci classes, she learned the basics of Java as well as algorithms and advanced data structures. Later on, during a summer research program, she dipped her toes into the waters of AI and Python. As a NASA Stem Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) intern, she worked on developing a multiple linear regression model to help predict mosquito outbreaks in different locations based on the vegetation content in the area.

Neeha’s background in tech has allowed her to find ways to make her own life easier and to help change the world around her. She’s also excited about sharing what she’s learned with others.

Neeha first got involved with TechGirlz after connecting with Alicia Park, the National Outreach Manager for the organization. One of her first projects was recording an Instructional Webinar on Computer Programming with C++ for TechGirlz’s YouTube channel. She then served as a TA for a workshop and has been a frequent TA during the Computer Programming in C++ workshop ever since.

During her time on the TAB and volunteering as a TA, Neeha has gotten to work with several people she’s come to admire. She’s worked closely with Sara Neiman, the Chicago Outreach Coordinator, on the TAB and during some workshops.

Speaking of Sara, Neeha says, “She’s always up to help us implement the ideas we have for TechGirlz and has a friendly face that I can always talk to, whether it may be about baking or pets, showing me how some of the relations I’ve made through TechGirlz last beyond volunteering as well!”

Neeha’s also enjoyed working closely with Alex, a TechGirlz volunteer instructor, who leads many of the Computer Programming in C++ workshops. She says Alex is a great example of the type of people who make TechGirlz an awesome organization, as he’s welcoming to new volunteers and always ready with a joke.

Volunteering with TechGirlz has helped Neeha see just how expansive the technology iceberg is. She admitted to being surprised by the diversity of the workshop library and available topics. “Some of the fields that I didn’t even know could be classified as technology each had their own set of powerpoints and lesson plans,” she said.

Screenshot of all the participants on a Zoom conference call

“On top of that, each lesson plan was so detailed and easy-to-follow, ready for a volunteer to get their hands on [it]! Through TechGirlz, I realized what a huge community of people there was committed to making an educational database accessible to all, and I’m so proud to be a part of that as I’m currently working on creating a Java curriculum lesson plan!”

It wasn’t only her computer classes in school that helped Neeha learn about the possibilities in tech. “I found that I was able to recognize what an inviting community it was through camps like First Bytes and organizations like [the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)],” she said.

The First Bytes camp at UT Austin (now renamed Academy for Women) showed her how varied tech can be. She also got to meet people from all over Texas while attending the camp. Winning a Houston Affiliate Award through NCWIT during her freshman year further inspired her to explore all that tech has to offer.

A few years later, Neeha’s involvement with TechGirlz and support from the organization helped her win the competitive National Aspirations in Computing Award through NCWIT. More than 4,200 people apply for the award and only 40 receive it.

Neeha has encouraging words for anyone who’s thinking about volunteering with TechGirlz but is unsure if they’re qualified to teach. She says, “Do it!!”

“I always thought that I wasn’t qualified enough to teach a certain topic or that I would mess up while teaching, but after volunteering at my first workshop, I realized that I’ve got a whole team of people ready to help me out and save me at all times!

“Also, you learn by teaching! Through the unique questions I get from the girls, I’m able to learn something new after every single workshop, and that’s what I love about tech: there’s always something new to learn!”

Inspired by Neeha’s story and want to get involved with TechGirlz? Sign up as a volunteer today!