Ariana PopeAriana Pope, a senior at Osseo Senior High, is among 15 students selected as winners in the fourth annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards. An additional 15 students were selected as runners-up. The awards program honors young women in grades 9-12 for their computing-related achievements and interests and was started to encourage young women to consider careers in technology, reducing the significant gender and talent gap in the field. The program is coordinated by Advance IT Minnesota, the high-tech talent incubator run by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. The state winners will be recognized during an April 19 ceremony at the Vadnais Heights Commons.

Ariana has participated in the Black Data Processing Association (BDPA) since eighth grade, competed in a National BDPA Conference, and now works as a lab assistant helping teach students how to program. Through BDPA, Ariana says that she learned that her skin color and gender are not a disadvantage while she tries to work toward a STEM career. She has learned to voice her opinion within her community, which prompted her to volunteer more and give back.

Ariana’s goal is to research and create devices for the human brain while encouraging youth to plan for a career in technology. She plans to enroll in a university this fall to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and neurology.

Ariana, along with other state winners, will be awarded prizes including tech devices, job shadowing and internship opportunities at Minnesota businesses, and a $4,000 scholarship provided by businesses for two selected applicants to attend Century College and St. Cloud State University.

The NCWIT created the national awards program in 2007 to encourage the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field and generate visibility for women’s participation in computing-related pursuits. In 2012, Minnesota became a state affiliate, offering young women the opportunity to be recognized at the state and national level.