Impact Stories: Christianah

Learning to Code Leads to Learning to Believe in You

Christianah

“Yes, I’d call myself a rock star.”

Such confidence didn’t come easy to Christianah Akingbehin, now a senior at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. She found it through learning to code.

“I was good at computer science, and my teacher said I should try coding. But then I transferred high schools and came to Ben Davis,” she said.

This occurred on the heels of being accepted into that summer’s immersive Nextech Catapult program only to see it canceled because of COVID.

“All this was right at the start of my junior year. That’s a hard time in life to change schools,” she said, “especially during COVID. How would I make friends when everybody’s got their masks on? I had a hard time.”

She reapplied and became part of the Summer 2021 Catapult cohort – still feeling pretty alone.

“I don’t remember if I was the only Black girl when I started the program, but I definitely remember thinking, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of white people here.’ That was part of why I thought I couldn’t do it, like maybe I didn’t belong,” she said. “I’d never pictured myself as someone who could code. I thought it was for sophisticated people, and I’m not like that in any way. But I did it. I learned so many skills that I never thought I’d be able to learn. Afterward, I was like, ‘Wow, I did it! Who’d a thought?’”

When she graduates in May, Christianah intends to pursue her passion: Medicine. She’s applied to “so many colleges” and likely will attend the university that awards her the most scholarship funds. She wants to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and believes computer science will help her get there.

“The Catapult mentors and interns are so amazing. They really helped me. When we started to learn JavaScript, I just didn’t get it at first. But so many mentors helped me and kept encouraging me to try. I can’t believe I actually created a website! And Miss Jill with Nextech kept pushing, saying, ‘I believe in you. You can do this.’ And she was right.”

The program showed Christianah many ways computers are involved in medicine and introduced her to medical occupations she didn’t know about.

She said this ‘not knowing’ is a big hurdle for students.

“The best things schools can do is provide info about computer science and coding. People have the talent and potential, but not many know what it is or how they can pursue a career in it,” she said. “I know so many girls who love it. I’ve grown to love it. If I see other people coding, I feel so happy.

“All I can say to Nextech is thank you for the opportunity to be great. Thank you for seeing the potential in me that I didn’t even see myself. Thank you to the mentors and in-person teachers. Just … thank you. For everything.”

Christianah

“Yes, I’d call myself a rock star.”

Such confidence didn’t come easy to Christianah Akingbehin, now a senior at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. She found it through learning to code.

“I was good at computer science, and my teacher said I should try coding. But then I transferred high schools and came to Ben Davis,” she said.

This occurred on the heels of being accepted into that summer’s immersive Nextech Catapult program only to see it canceled because of COVID.

“All this was right at the start of my junior year. That’s a hard time in life to change schools,” she said, “especially during COVID. How would I make friends when everybody’s got their masks on? I had a hard time.”

She reapplied and became part of the Summer 2021 Catapult cohort – still feeling pretty alone.

“I don’t remember if I was the only Black girl when I started the program, but I definitely remember thinking, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of white people here.’ That was part of why I thought I couldn’t do it, like maybe I didn’t belong,” she said. “I’d never pictured myself as someone who could code. I thought it was for sophisticated people, and I’m not like that in any way. But I did it. I learned so many skills that I never thought I’d be able to learn. Afterward, I was like, ‘Wow, I did it! Who’d a thought?’”

When she graduates in May, Christianah intends to pursue her passion: Medicine. She’s applied to “so many colleges” and likely will attend the university that awards her the most scholarship funds. She wants to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and believes computer science will help her get there.

“The Catapult mentors and interns are so amazing. They really helped me. When we started to learn JavaScript, I just didn’t get it at first. But so many mentors helped me and kept encouraging me to try. I can’t believe I actually created a website! And Miss Jill with Nextech kept pushing, saying, ‘I believe in you. You can do this.’ And she was right.”

The program showed Christianah many ways computers are involved in medicine and introduced her to medical occupations she didn’t know about.

She said this ‘not knowing’ is a big hurdle for students.

“The best things schools can do is provide info about computer science and coding. People have the talent and potential, but not many know what it is or how they can pursue a career in it,” she said. “I know so many girls who love it. I’ve grown to love it. If I see other people coding, I feel so happy.

“All I can say to Nextech is thank you for the opportunity to be great. Thank you for seeing the potential in me that I didn’t even see myself. Thank you to the mentors and in-person teachers. Just … thank you. For everything.”