NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Shreya Venkat, a junior at New Providence High School, has started the ball rolling to introduce Computer Programming to Allen Roberts School (AWR), one of the elementary schools in the borough. Venkat noticed that only a few of her classmates shared her same enthusiasm for programming and decided to do something about it.

She had taken a trip to California and noticed that the children there were introduced to programming at a much younger age and it gave her an idea. “I realized that I could increase interest in programming by teaching it to kids, that way they’d be more familiar with it and more likely to pursue it in high school,” Venkat said.

Working with Susan Rembetsy, the head of the Math Department at New Providence High School, Venkat contacted Gina Hansen, the principal at Allen Roberts Elementary School. Hansen was happy to accommodate her and pave the way for the mini course to be taught after school.

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Venkat created a flyer and emailed it out to the parents of the sixth grade and 25 children signed up for her class. With the help of Brandy Conover, the librarian at AWR, and Sandra Andersen, the head of the NPHS Technology Department, Venkat began teaching her five-week class after school.

She taught a programming language called “Scratch,” which is an introductory language in programming for children. “It teaches them the fundamentals so they can go on to learn harder languages like Java,” said Venkat.  She hopes the district will continue the exposure of the younger grades to programming. “Almost all the kids said they would want to continue learning programming in the future,” she said.

Venkat, who primarily learned computer programming taking online classes, including an online class at MIT, has already passed the AP Computer Science test. This venture was part of her pursuit of her Gold Award for girl scouts. The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA, it is equivalent to the Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts.

She plans on teaching more classes like this in the future, “I really enjoy learning new languages,” said Venkat, “and I wanted other kids to be able to experience the same feeling.” She plans to pursue Computer Science in college.