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South Jordan Journal

Four students top technology awards in computing

Sep 21, 2020 12:38PM ● By Julie Slama

Maria Feist, of Herriman High, was a regional honorable mention winner of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing. (Photo courtesy of NCWIT.)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Four local high school girls recently were awarded regional winners of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing.

Manya Nair, of Riverton High; Katelyn Swain, of JATC; Maya Heesch, of Providence Hall; and Sydney Leister, of Mountain Ridge High, were honored March 7 as they “significantly demonstrated interest and aptitude for computing.” They were four of the 16 regional winners and received an engraved crystal trophy for the high school as well as individual crystals, scholarship opportunities and technology prizes.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing honors ninth through 12th grade students for their computing-related achievements and interests, and encourages them to pursue their passions. Award recipients are selected based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing, as demonstrated by their computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access and plans for post-secondary education. 

Nair, who recently graduated from Riverton, was both her school’s DECA and FBLA presidents, a state champion and national top 5% in Skills USA entrepreneurship contestant, and served as a senior member of the Women Tech Council student board. She plans to double major in computer science with an emphasis on data science, and business.

Swain got involved in technology through a Girls who Code camp and has been studying digital media and web design. She has run the websites of two schools in Jordan School District as well as a nonprofit website. She planned to work this summer as a junior web developer and wants to pursue full stack web development and graphic design in college.

Heesch is vice president of her school robotics club and has a passion for editing videos. She wants to earn her bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and software engineering and pursue a career in cyber security and become a professional white hat hacker.

Leister is involved in SheTech as a student board representative, competed in website design event at the state FBLA conference, and has attended Utah State’s app camp and Brigham Young University’s cybersecurity camp. She recently graduated and wants to earn a degree in computer science so she can design software for Apple or Google.

Other area regional winners Maili Vu, AMES; and Sanjana Kargi and Abigail Slama-Catron, both of Hillcrest High.

Area honorable mention awards went to Marianne Liu of Sandy, West High; Cynthia Perez-Pacheco, GTI; Tea Flores, Herriman High; Katheryn Wesley, AMES; Lillian McElheny, Riverton High; Quinn Quinley, Riverton; Tiare Jorquera, GTI; Shae Harmon, Murray High; Samantha Wilhelm, Murray High; Kayla Bacon, Herriman High; Michelle Chiem, Herriman High; and Maria Feist, Herriman High.

Area Rising Star awards, for those who are starting out in their pursuit of studying computing, went to Kaitlyn Lowe, Brighton High; Ashley Hillstead, Beehive Academy; Hannah Braeger, Herriman High; Alayna Pinales, GTI; Madisen Homer, Murray High; and Grace Haglund, Olympus High.

Since 2007, nearly 17,000 students have received an Aspirations in Computing award and regional affiliate award programs are hosted in 79 locations nationwide by NCWIT member organizations—a national network of universities, companies, nonprofits, and government organizations working to increase the influence and meaningful participation of girls and women from every community.

According to its website, NCWIT was chartered in 2005 by the National Science Foundation and is a nonprofit community that convenes, equips, and unites change leader organizations to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women—at the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation and disability status—in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development.