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Mentorship and Crowdfunding Help Turn a High School Drop-Out Into a CS Major

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A tech executive shares her story to illustrate just how much difference mentoring can make in girls’ career trajectories. 

By Felicia Curcuru (VP of User Experience, FundersClub)

My little sister (from Big Brother Big Sister) moved in with me in Silicon Valley after dropping out of high school, and then became inspired to study computer science and go to college. She is now raising an indiegogo campaign to help pay for her CS degree. Here is our story:

Eight years ago, I joined Big Brother Big Sister in Philadelphia when I was a college undergrad and was assigned to Ashana; she was ten years old. She is off-the-charts smart and one of those people that can do anything she sets her mind to. But she comes from a tough/unstable background and this year, moved in with me in San Francisco after having a stint of homelessness and dropping out of high school.

While Ashana lived with me, I exposed her to the tech industry in SF through visiting my friends’ offices at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Uber, Dropbox, Yelp, Soldsie, Code 2040, Code for America, FundersClub (where I work) and 20+ other offices. Ashana also interned while she was here at Black Girls Code, a non-profit that teaches minority girls to code. Ashana was so inspired by these visits and her internship, that she got her heart set on going to college to get a CS degree and being a front-end developer. She even began teaching herself to code on CodeAcademy in her spare time.

Over the last six months, Ashana has turned her life around. She finished her GED, her HS diploma, her SATs and she got into University of San Francisco, where she is starting this fall!  She is taking her first CS class and has already built her first few apps. My personal favorite is one that makes a cat meow when you touch the screen.

I wanted to share our story for two reasons: First, I wanted to show the power of exposing young girls who have not previously had access to opportunities in tech. And second, I want to spread Ashana’s story and her indiegogo campaign to help her pay for college. Her campaign has an amazing video of Ashana telling her story – she is great on camera and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with her just like I did. :)

Could you be doing more to help expose girls to tech careers?

03f2d90About the guest blogger: Felicia is currently VP of User Experience and employee #1 at FundersClub where she founded and runs the FundersClub Panel, a group of 100+ angel investors that help FundersClub vet companies. Felicia previously was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, where she worked for energy and tech clients in the US, Asia and Europe.