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Three CHS students surprised with STEM award, new laptops, tech camp scholarship

Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 6:57 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The school day started as a normal one for three young engineers at Charlottesville High School (CHS) – all girls, and all Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students – but then they got a surprise: an award meant to help them change the world.

“I was like, super shock. I didn’t know what to say,” CHS freshman Mariam Sadat said. “I was like really like shaking, like shivering.”

Hope George, Aniyah Moore, and Sadat have a lot in common. They are all young women of color and engineers interested going into a field that is constantly searching for exactly that.

“It wasn’t going to be my hobby, then I started getting into projects. It was so amazing, and so fun, just coding and putting stuff together,” George explained, expressing why she likes her Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) classes at CHS. It’s a feeling echoed by her classmates.

“To me, it allows a flow of creativity,” Moore explained. “I can create whatever. There’s no real limit to what I can make, if I really try.”

They’re also all hoping to be the first women -- and first in their families in general -- to go to college, with the help of the CHS AVID program.

“We want them to go into school with the skills not just to get in, but also succeed,” CHS engineering and AVID teacher Dave Dierolf said. “It’s really exciting to be able to support students with that desire.”

Now, they’re all the recipients of a brand new laptop and a scholarship to the ID Tech STEM camp at the University of Virginia this summer. It’s an award made possible by local tech companies WillowTree and Innovative Software Solutions (ISS).

“Having this charitable event is a great opportunity to bring unity to the community and to also provide opportunities for students that typically wouldn’t get those opportunities,” ISS’ Branford Rogers explained.

Innovative Software Solutions founder Charlie Rogers, who grew up in the projects of Portsmouth, says being given an opportunity like this can make all the difference.

“That’s why we do this,” Charlie Rogers said. “That’s why, WillowTree and ISS, we partnered together to raise funds to help those that. All they need is opportunity, and we’re just blessed to be to be a part of that.”

Their teachers at Charlottesville High School say the choice of George, Moore, and Sadat was an easy one.

“It was easy to find a great group of deserving young, young students that can really benefit from the resources,” engineering teacher Matt Shields said.

They say for these three young women, the sky is the limit.

“Their opportunities are larger than they were aware of, and you don’t take opportunity so you don’t know you can get,” CHS engineering teacher Karl Helmstetter said. “So, hopefully this not only makes them better have more access and more skills, but also hopefully this emboldened them to be more ambitious.”

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