Two South Orange residents graduated from a seven-week "Girls Who Code" program at New Jersey Institute of Technology last month.

Julianah Temitayo Songonuga, a junior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, and Eliana Schulman, also a junior, at Newmark High School in Scotch Plains, graduated the program on August 27.

The students were among more than three dozen young women from throughout New Jersey who graduated from the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at NJIT, which was supported by the Verizon Foundation. The intensive summer program pairs more than 300 hours of instruction in web development and design, robotics, and mobile development with mentorship and exposure led by the industry’s top female engineers and entrepreneurs.

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Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. With the support of the Verizon Foundation, the seven-week intensive computer science course was offered for the first time in Newark this summer.

"I’m excited about this program because it’s an ignition point that unleashes the extraordinary power and potential of young women and girls," said U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who addressed attendees at  graduation. 

The Verizon Foundation, in an effort to help further motivate girls to continue their education and consider a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, encourages Verizon’s senior female leaders to participate in the program. 

Rose Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation, pointed to the changing demographics in STEM fields. 

"This change begets opportunity," she said. "Our society is becoming more diverse in its race, its thinking, and its power – and technology is at the nexus of innovation.”

Currently, women make up the majority of the labor force nationwide, but hold only 25 percent of the jobs in computing and technical fields. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in the computing related fields, but women educated in the U.S. are only on pace to filling 3 percent of these positions. 

"As incredible smart, determined young women, you are the change that our society needs, and you are the change companies in America – like Verizon, need also," Kirk said.