Sydney Gibbard and Mina Shokoufandeh were fortunate enough to attend The Pennington School for high school, where they developed long-lasting relationships with their teachers and administration. If it wasn’t for The Pennington School, Girls Code the World would not as successful as it is today.
Gibbard and Shokoufandeh always felt like they had access to a multitude of resources and felt supported by the community to pursue their goals in STEM.
It was this encouragment and community that made it possible for them to beging devleoping Girls Code the World.
It all started when Gibbard and Shokoufandeh were juniors at The Pennington School, and the Director of Applied Science, Susan Wirsig, encouraged them to apply for the Aspirations Award from the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT). Gibbard and Shokoufandeh recieved references from their computer science and technology education teachers and submitted an application for the award.
A month or so later, Gibbard was recognized as the New Jersey Affiliate Award Winner and Shokoufandeh was recognized as the New Jersy Honorable Mention Winner. The women traveled to an awards ceremony, hosted at Kean University in northern New Jersey. At the ceremony, Gibbard and Shokoufandeh had the opportunity to speak with several girls their age who have made significant contributions to the effort to get more women involved in STEM. Gibbard and Shokoufandeh were incredibly inspired, and they began brainstorming ideas that they could run and implement.
The women applied for a $3,000 grant from NCWIT to fund a summer program they were plannning. Gibbard and Shokoufandeh worked tirelessly with the Director of Summer Programs at The Pennington School, Jeff Eckerson, to plan for this program and create a working budget. Gibbard and Shokoufandeh reached out to the Christina Seix Academy (CSA) in Trenton, NJ to gage their interest in participating in this program by sending their sixth grade girls. CSA expressed excitement for this program, and quickly, a partnership developed.
A few weeks later, Gibbard and Shokoufandeh heard from NCWIT; they didn’t recieve the grant. The women were devastated; they had put a lot of time and thought into developing this program. Luckily, a private donor found out about the program, which had been since named Girls Code the World, and provided an anonymous donation to The Pennington School’s Applied Science Program in the name of Ettie Hamid and Barbara Wright, who were advocates for women’s education. The donation was to be allocated to Gibbard and Shokoufandeh for their work in women’s STEM empowerment.
The program was wildly successful, all thanks to the support from administration and teachers at The Pennington School and meaningful encouragement from an outside donor. Since the program’s founding in 2018, Gibbard and Shokoufandeh have worked with the new Director of Summer Programs, Elliot Coates, to expand the program. They have also communicated with Kerri Ward, the Assistant Director of Summer Programs, on other ways The Pennington School can support Girls Code the World.
Sydney Gibbard and Mina Shokoufandeh are both eternally grateful to The Pennington School for its extremely supportive community; Girls Code the World wouldn’t be the same without the school.
In the past, Pennington had provided legal advice, financial advice, insurance, materials, space for the program to run, marketing/advertisment, and so many other resources to help Girls Code the World thrive.
In the future, Gibbard and Shokoufandeh plan on continuing this partnership and giving back to the Mercer County Area, where The Pennington School is located.