South wins AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award


Betsy Jarsoick, Staff writer

South has received the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award from the College Board for the 2020-2021 school year, according to Phil Gartner, mathematics instructional supervisor. The award recognized South for having over 50 percent female enrollment in the AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) Exam, Gartner explained.

South is one of just a few schools in the area to win the award, Gartner said, out of 760 nationwide, according to the College Board. The award seeks to celebrate and incentivize female involvement in high-level computer science courses, and can be given to eligible schools for either AP CSP or AP Computer Science A, Gartner said. He explained that AP CSP is a relatively new course, only having been available since 2017, but one that is accessible to students ranging from beginners to experienced coders.

“One of the purposes of [AP CSP] is to appeal to a broader range of students,” Gartner said. “[It is] not just [for] students that are into very technical coding, but [also for] students [with] a broader interest, [who want] to see if they might want to take future [computer science] courses.”

The course covers traditional coding, intercut with other relevant topics relating to cybersecurity and the internet, said Elizabeth Nemecek, an AP CSP teacher. This variety in topic matter creates an even playing field for students of all experience levels, Nemecek said, and because of this the class is able to reach students from more varied backgrounds compared to other courses.

“It’s really awesome to see a good mix [of male and female students] in any computer science course,” Nemecek said. “The population of female students interested is growing, [and] I hope [the award] does help change and grow the program.”

Junior Ashley Lulkin said the class seemed intimidating to her as a beginner, but that the class’s structure made it easy to learn the basics of coding, and that her classmates are eager to help each other when they don’t understand something. In her class, there are more boys than girls, but the other students are welcoming regardless of gender, she said. 

“Before this class, I didn’t have any experience with computer science, which made me a bit nervous going into it because I knew that a lot of people in the class had taken other computer science courses or had some sort of experience,” Lulkin said. “Now, I’m really grateful I took it and it has become one of my favorite classes this year.”

Junior Lauren Ravury, who is taking AP CSP this year, placed a lot of importance on the environment in her computer science class – one where students are able to ask questions, are friendly and helpful to each other, and can take a step back when they’re too engrossed in the work. Ravury said she believes this environment was created through Nemecek’s dedication as a teacher and her commitment to inclusivity in the classroom.

 “Girls have a lot of willpower in them to do a lot, especially in the midst of adversity, but also I think you have to give a lot of credit to the guys, especially in my class,” Ravury said. “They are really welcoming, and I don’t think an environment could be as friendly without them. I think coexistence is really important, especially in computer science, because you have to make sure that every person is represented.”