Two Dickinson County schools earn Computer Science Female Diversity Award

IRON MOUNTAIN & NORWAY, Mich. (WLUC) – Two Dickinson County high schools are seeing more girls enroll in computer science classes. These courses are typically mostly boys.

Students in Renee Yake’s Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles (CSP) class at Iron Mountain High School learned about artificial intelligence (AI) technology today. A majority of the class is girls, traditionally, this is not the norm.

“When we offered it the first few years, it was put up against Spanish III and IV. We did not have as many females, because stereotypically, the girls take the language class and the boys take the math and computer science classes, ”said Renee Yake, Iron Mountain Math & Computer Science Teacher.

Five years ago, the first year for the course, only three girls signed up. Yake says at first, many felt out of place.

“I remember I wrote them each a note on the first day of school saying, ‘you belong here, you belong here’,” Yake said.

According to the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, women represent just one-quarter of computer and mathematical occupations in the US

Girls in Yake’s class are hoping to change that.

“We all really encourage each other, and it’s really awesome to see both sides come in and how females are getting more into the industry,” said Danika Juul, AP CSP student & Iron Mountain Senior.

Iron Mountain and Norway High Schools were two of the 1,020 US schools recognized in 2021 with the College Board’s “AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award.” This means at least half of the students enrolled in the course were girls. Last year, Yake’s class was an even split. This year, it’s nearly 70 percent girls.

“[Yake] does a great job teaching this class. That is part of the reason why I want to teach it someday because it has been so fun for me, ”said Alison Metras, AP CSP Student & Iron Mountain Senior.

“Coding is used for everything, and almost every job now is based with a computer,” said Gabby Carey, AP CSP Student & Iron Mountain Senior.

In Norway, the program is at least 50-percent girls again this year. The school hopes this trend drives enrollment for all minorities.

“Hopefully we make everyone feel like Computer Science is for them, that is our goal,” said Jacqueline Leiker, Norway Technology Teacher.

The students at Norway and Iron Mountain hope to encourage younger classmates to consider taking ap computer science principles next year. In the meantime, students prepare to take their AP exam in May.

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