Facilitator Spotlight – Girls Who Code

By: HFSV September 21, 2021

Carly Tompkins, 27

Carly lets out an infectious laugh as a student proudly shoots their hand up and explains that coding is “like when someone hacks you.” She affirms the student and goes on to explain the complex nature of coding in a way any middle school student will comprehend. 

For the past semester, every Thursday afternoon, current San Jose State student, Carly Tompkins, volunteered her time to lead a Girls Who Code club at DCP El Camino Middle School. Her bubbly personality and dedication to empowering young Latinas kept students coming back every week, sometimes even staying extra late to chat with her about life.

For Santa Clara local, Carly, being a Girls Who Code facilitator is more than just teaching code, it is about being the Latina STEM role model she never had growing up. As a science major, Carly recalls never having a mentor that looked like her. 

“It wasn’t until recently when I started connecting with women in STEM and Latinas in STEM, that I realized how powerful it is to have and see someone like you in a position you want to be in…. I want to be the science role model I never had when I was young,” said Carly. 

Through this ten-week after school club, Carly taught curriculum provided by Girls Who Code on behalf of The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Along with four other facilitators leading clubs in San Jose, Carly exemplified the “see you, be you” model. By bringing in Latinas in STEM to the front of the classroom, young Latina students have a living, breathing example that they can do it too.  Carly expects to graduate in Spring 2021 with a major in molecular biology and minors in Chemistry and Bioinformatics. After graduation, she hopes to continue her educational path and eventually receive a Ph.D. in a biosciences field.   Adamant that “great science happens in diversity,” Carly reflects on those that paved the way for her to be a powerful Latina pursuing an education in STEM. 

“The fact that both sets of grandparents were immigrants, my father grew up spending his summers picking fruit in the fields, and my mother had only a couple of outfits and one pair of shoes every year of childhood is not lost on me,” said Carly. 

She is aware of her family’s journey and her assertion that she must be that inspirational woman reaching behind her to “pull up the woman next to me.” Because of that, Carly jumped at the opportunity to lead middle school girls in a project-oriented club, teaching them to code and working to close the gender gap in technology. 

Even the feat of learning to code was not easy for Carly. “If you had asked me three years ago if I could ever see myself learning computer programming, I would have laughed and said, ‘absolutely not’,” said Carly. 

Yet, teaching the girls how to code quickly became her favorite part of the club. She loved showing them that they can be creative with coding and was always happy to see the students’ excitement when they made unexpected progress in their own coding projects. 

When asked what advice she would give young Latinas considering STEM, Carly said: “surround yourself by people who want to see you succeed, none of us do it alone.” 

Carly will be facilitating a Girls Who Code club at ACE Inspire Academy beginning in February as part of the next round of coding clubs organized by the Hispanic Foundation.