Elaine Tran: Girl Who Codes

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Elaine Tran: Girl Who Codes

'Girls Who Code' president, senior Elaine Tran.

'Girls Who Code' president, senior Elaine Tran.

'Girls Who Code' president, senior Elaine Tran.

'Girls Who Code' president, senior Elaine Tran.

By Aila Durakovic, Staff Writer

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Technology is a force that influences most aspects of contemporary life, ranging from the more meaningless and entertaining apps to complex software used in business and healthcare. Regardless of seriousness or complexity, they all depend on coding. Senior Elaine Tran discovered her interest in coding when she first came to West. Then, she had no idea she’d emerge as a leader and inspiration to aspiring coders.

In seventh grade, Tran stumbled upon an online block-based programming language called Scratch and after playing with it for a while, she liked  it. This led her to take AP Computer Science freshman year. Even though she made friends in the class, the atmosphere was dominated by male students, which bugged Tran. So, she founded Girls Who Code at the end of her Junior year.

When I was a freshman in AP Computer Science I was a little intimidated by the fact that the class was mostly upperclassmen boys,” Tran said. “As time went on, I developed a solid male-centric network and group of friends but still noticed the absence of my female peers in engineering classes. I even heard some of my girl friends say that they didn’t like having to ‘prove themselves.’ Determined to create a more comfortable environment, I started Girls Who Code.”

Girls Who Code is a club where girls learn programming fundamentals in Java. Members are able to choose what project interests them. Annually, the girls host the computer science section of the Girls Empowered by Math and Science (GEMS) middle school event. But before all of this could happen, Tran had to lay the groundwork.

“[Math and Computer Science teacher] Ms. Mosier and I reached out and gathered a core group of girls. We wrote a proposal to [director of student activities] Ms. Odell and got enough signatures to officially start the club,” Tran said.  

As the club got organized, it began to progress quickly. Now, Tran sees the payoff.

Throughout my high school career, I’ve seen myself grow as a programmer, not just expanding my technical skills, but learning how to troubleshoot and being more comfortable when introduced to a new language,” Tran said. “Girls Who Code impacted more of the social side of computer science. I definitely saw myself grow as a team member, helping anyone if they need assistance and making sure I listen to the girls’ input about they want to see in this club.”

Seeing self growth means you’re improving for the better, but when others see you grow it means you’re making a difference. One of Tran’s long time friends, Senior Emily Duong, has witnessed Tran’s growth in the field over the years.

“Elaine has been dedicated to computer science ever since freshman year. She took AP Comp Sci A as a freshman in a class that was mainly junior and senior guys. Nevertheless, she showed herself to be a leader within the field and has progressed in her skill ever since. I think Girls Who Code is a great concept because of this exact problem–the field still is male-dominated and this club allows for a platform to break that stereotype,” Duong said.

Having friends who view you as a role model to the underclassmen is a privilege not all have. It takes hard work for people to acknowledge the work you put out for the public. Senior Jay Monga believes Tran is taking a stand and trying to make a positive change to the system.

“I believe that Elaine’s work in Girls Who Code does a great service. Women are underrepresented in computer science, not just in Niles West but throughout the whole world,” Monga said. “Through her achievements in computer science and other STEM fields, Elaine has become a great role model for other students.”

Spending most of her high school time around computer science, Tran plans to continue her pursuit after graduation.

I want to study computer science in college, but I have no idea where to go yet,” Tran said. “I applied to a ton of schools regular decisions, so I’m still waiting on responses. I’m not entirely sure what I want to do after college either, but in the meantime I’ll definitely work on my own side projects and try to get an internship.”

Programming takes up most of Tran’s time but she still manages to fit other things she loves into her schedule.

Unfortunately, I had to drop Track and Field for Girls Who Code and other commitments. However, I still enjoy exercising consistently. In fact, I’m in the weight room on most days. My other hobbies include shopping and going to aesthetically pleasing restaurants,” Tran said. 

Graduation keeps coming closer day by day and time is running out. Tran is still figuring out where she will be attending after the school year is over, but Girls Who Code will still go on. Her legacy will continue throughout the halls at West.

“I trust that the other girls in the club will be able to lead Girls Who Code for the years to come. Ms. Mosier and I have also discussed ideas to implement in the future, like maybe getting into web development or attending a leadership conference,” Tran said. “I’m sure Girls Who Code will continue to grow.”