A Tale of Two Clubs: G.L.I. and Girls Who Code
Every year, March 1st marks the beginning of Women’s History Month, a month-long remembrance dedicated to honoring the past and present contributions women have made to America. Yet, at Clifton High School, two clubs pay their respects all year round through their continued advocacy for women every single day. Girls Who Code and Girls Learn International are two clubs that focus specifically on women and shifting the imbalance of power in our society through empowering the girls of not only Clifton High, but across the globe.
Girls Who Code was started three years ago by a student with the intent of creating a place for girls to discover and practice coding, separate from the male-dominated spaces that are typically seen in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Too often, women are discouraged from pursuing an interest in STEM due to the intimidating nature of entering a field that has not been open to women in the past and is deficient in women. Mrs. Boutemine, the current advisor, had worked in I.T. as a programmer before coming to CHS and maintained that in her entire department, she was the only woman. To combat the difficulties that women face in STEM, G.W.C. wants to provide a safe space for girls to come with any amount of experience, work at their own pace, bond with fellow girls, and most importantly, code. And code they do. In the past two years of the club's three-year history, two girls have received full scholarships for their work with coding and computer science. The first girl came into G.W.C. with no experience and left with a full ride to her future, while the second girl was the salutatorian for the 2021-2022 school year and obtained a full ride to New York University for computer science. She, and other members of G.W.C., had taken part in developing apps to help special education students learn how to count money and recognize certain street signs. Despite the clear benefits and payoffs coding can bring about, it is not always easy for the club to garner many long-lasting members.
Their biggest challenge as a club seems to be, as Mrs. Boutemine stated, “the same problem as we have outside of the school.” Despite having tried many ways to increase attendance, many girls do not come consistently - likely as a result of how daunting coding can appear to someone without experience. They hope to attract more members to educate on coding and establish a comfortable enough environment that girls feel inclined to “stick to it.” Mrs. Boutemine hopes to “make women who can lead.” She declares that “nobody should say that we can’t go into that field…we can do anything we want.”
Girls Learn International takes a broader approach, expanding its scope of women’s rights to education as a whole and both female and human rights in general. Formed about a decade ago at CHS by the current advisor, Ms. Springer, G.L.I. is a chapter of a larger foundation of the same name. The program was founded on the principles of empowering students to be informed about and advocate for human rights, equity, and universal education, emphasizing that humanitarianism and activism have no age minimum. According to their mission statement, they believe that “global youth, in particular girls, have a crucial role to play in leading the movement to affect change for girls and women all over the world.”
Ms. Springer stated that the club “strives to teach and increase awareness of inequities around the world among students” and raises money for different schools such as those that have an unequal ratio of graduation rates or attendance for boys and girls. These schools are in places where guardians can often only afford to send one child due to the tuition-based school system and they usually choose to send the boys over the girls. The club will often discuss and research humanity crises occurring both nationally and internationally, attempting to stay informed on the world they live in and spreading this knowledge to the rest of the student body. Recently, the club killed two birds with one stone by hosting a movie night for all to attend in the school auditorium. They presented an educational movie documenting different women and their struggles around the world and sold snacks to simultaneously educate and fundraise.
Throughout human history, women have and will continue to fight a long battle, one that hopefully ends with equal opportunities and equity for all. Girls Who Code and Girls Learn International are carving places for themselves in our community to facilitate change and inspire the youth to reach their full potential. Oftentimes, change begins with drops, then it ripples, and eventually, it becomes a wave. Programs like G.W.C. and G.L.I. are the drops needed to form our own ripple throughout Clifton, eventually contributing to the larger, unstoppable wave that has been brewing throughout the world.
For more information about these clubs, you can email the advisors here:
Girls Who Code: firstname.lastname@example.org
Girls Learn International: JSpringer@cliftonschools.net