Girls Who Code Run the World: Meet 17-Year-Old Michelle Polton-Simon
This summer Cambio partnered with Girls Who Code, an innovative organization actively increasing the number of girls exposed to careers in the technology fields. Five graduates of the program are interning at Cambio, and they helped us relaunch the site - building new features and putting their stamp on the content - creating a destination that not only entertains but also empowers young women. We're thrilled to introduce you to these remarkable girls.
Michelle Polton-Simon, 17, from New York City, is a senior at Hunter College High School. She was the only girl in her first computer science class and loves proving that girls can do anything boys can do. Here, she talks about her experience interning at Cambio and creating a product that will give girls a new way to empower each other and encourage them to make their mark.
Cambio: Why did you join Girls Who Code?
Michelle: I joined GWC, because my mom saw an article in the New York Times about it and I'd previously taken a Java class, but hadn't found the teaching to really suit me and I'd also done some stuff on my school's robotics team, but I wanted to I guess try something a little bit more, so I decided to sign up.
Cambio: Is it challenging for girls to get into coding?
Michelle: It is hard to get girls interested in coding. It's really challenging, because the first computer science class I took was entirely boys except for me - and while I'm not the sort of person that gets intimidated by that, in fact I find that kind of cool to prove that I can do anything any boy can - it's a little scary when the teacher doesn't know how to treat you, because you're the only girl. So it's a bit of a challenge to try to encourage girls to step into a field that's primarily men.
Cambio: Can you tell us about your final project at GWC?
Michelle: Two other girls and I built an app that used Instagram and Google maps so that you could select a location on Google Maps and it would pull up the most recent Instagram photos from that location in real time.
Cambio: What are you most excited about working on at Cambio?
Michelle: I'm really excited to have something I built on the actual Cambio website and to I guess get my hand at trying to build something for an established website.
Cambio: What do you hope to achieve by the end of this program at Cambio?
Michelle: I want to have solid enough knowledge of computer science that I can go back to school or go into college knowing that I'm comfortable with this and that I actually know what I'm doing.
Cambio: Which woman inspires you the most and why?
Michelle: I think probably my mother, because she's made sure me and my sister always go after what we dream and never let anyone intimidate us not pursue what we want, and she's always made it possible for us to do everything we want to do while she works a full-time job but is also there for us whenever we need her.
Cambio: What empowers you?
Michelle: I think the support network I have. I have a lot of friends and family who are always doing things that really interest them no matter what that is. I have a lot of friends who want to become doctors and lawyers and politicians and seeing these other girls doing stuff that really interests them - they're also really hard fields to break into - it's really nice to have that support network or people encouraging each other.
(Check out Michelle and her fellow interns' interview with Gregg Sulkin, pictured above)
Cambio: What do you think girls care most about today?
Michelle: I think girls today care a lot about making their mark and with new technology establishing themselves in whatever industry or world they want to be part of.
Cambio: Who's your favorite celebrity?
Michelle: I really like Emma Watson, because she's done so much and she was just announced one of the UN's Good Will Ambassadors. She also makes really good movies, but she has like a really solid message for women and she does so much while still attending college and that's really, really incredible.
Cambio: What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
Michelle: To me #BUILTBYGIRLS means being able to do whatever you want to do, being able to make whatever you want to make whether that's something small like your DIY project, your belt you want to make or your bracelet, to building your own website or establishing yourself in whatever field you really love.
(See Michelle's first article on the Cambio Col[lab].)