Empowering the Next Generation: Microsoft YouthSpark star Abril Vela

Empowering the Next Generation: Microsoft YouthSpark star Abril Vela’s Story

 

 

Abril Vela is not your typical 18 year old. She has previously interned in the IT department of President Obama’s 2012 campaign and also created an organization for high school girls in the Chicago area who are interested in pursuing technology. What makes her story truly inspirational is her focus on empowering women in tech and drive to engage students to code. And through her passion and drive, Abril has helped provide hundreds of young girls the opportunity to learn about coding and the tech industry. Check out what her source of inspiration is, thoughts on breaking gender barriers within tech, and more in her interview below:

 

HC: What inspired you to get involved with the world of technology, and what advice do you have for any young women aspiring to break into the scene of technology but are unsure how to go about it? 

Abril: I first got involved with the world of technology completely by chance; computer science was offered as an elective at my high school and I signed up to take an introductory programming course my freshman year. It was my teacher who inspired me to get involved, and stay involved, with technology and really encouraged me to pursue a path in the field. I encourage any other young women who are aspiring to break into the scene of technology to get online and check out the online resources that are available to them (Microsoft has great tools at their YouthSpark Hub at youthsparkhub.com), do a quick search of the introductory workshops taught at libraries/companies/organizations near you, and last but not least encourage some of your friends to check it out with you so you have a support system. My friends, and my teacher, have made all of the difference in my journey with technology so far.

 

HC: Talk to us about DigiGirlz and the role it played for you with fostering your passion towards computer science and technology. 

Abril: At DigiGirlz they showed us this amazing video of the future of technology at Microsoft and the products that they are currently working on; it was the first time that I saw that I could create something physical with computer science and not just a program on a screen. It was then that my passion for building/creating things that are more hands on and tangible was connected with my new interest in the field of computer science. Ultimately, DigiGirlz was the first time that it became clear to me that engineering would become the path for me. 

 

HC: We're all about women's empowerment here at Her Campus, so what are some ways we can engage women into STEM fields considering the current gap with women holding 25% of STEM jobs yet comprise 50% of the workforce?

Abril: I am lucky enough to work with an amazing organization, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which has done amazing work to compile resources on how to help get women into STEM fields at any age/level i.e. K-12/higher education. I strongly recommend checking out their resources and tools on their website at ncwit.org. Initiatives like Black Girls Code have done great work to start programs to help get more young women into STEM jobs, if we can continue to provide these types of resources to our young women, we are well on our way to getting more women into the field.

 

HC: How have your various experiences ranging from managing Chicago Girls in Computing to interning in the IT department of President Obama's 2012 impact you, and what are some lessons you drew upon your experiences? 

Abril: Each experience has had an impact on the way that I utilize technology and the impact that I want to have on my community with the products/projects/organizations that I build/work on/am a part of. Collectively, they have shaped who I am as a person today and who I am as a leader and a technologist. I want to create technology that helps people and that is ultimately contributing to the greater good of society.

 

HC: Now a fun question! What are you looking forward to the most in college?  

Abril: I am looking forward to the new experiences and meeting and working with new people to see what crazy new project ideas I can come up with. I’m excited to be a part of new communities and organizations.

 

 

Check out her WE THE YOUTH video story.

To learn MORE about Youthspark programs, visit: youthsparkhub.com

(Photo credit to Microsoft YouthSpark)