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Love of all things STEM leads to state award for high school senior

Aarathi Garimella Aarathi Garimella, a senior at Edina High School (EHS), is one of 13 young women in the state to receive a Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Award. The award was presented April 17 by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) and their local partner, the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence.

The award recognizes high school women in grades 9–12 and is based on demonstrated interest and achievements in computing, proven leadership ability, academic performance, and plans for post-secondary education.

Aarathi is a member of the EHS math, debate and robotics teams and is president of the Interact Club, a community service organization sponsored by local Rotary clubs. She mentors younger members of the robotics team and, while a student at Valley View Middle School, started a Girls Who Code Club. She has attended many programming and robotics camps and last year was an Honorable Mention recipient for this same award. We asked Aarathi to tell us about her interests and plans for the future:

What made you decide to apply for the award?

I applied for this award last year after my AP computer science teacher, Nancy Poulus, said I would be a good candidate. I wasn’t really sure, but she kept pushing me. I ended up being a State runner-up last year and applied again this year.

What does winning this award mean to you?

It is such an honor to win this award because I have gotten to meet so many amazing girls who are also interested in computer science. Through this award, I was also offered an internship this summer at a company called PeopleNet, so I’m very excited to work there this summer.

How did you first become interested in technology science?

I have always been interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) since I was a kid. My parents really encouraged that by sending me to countless programming and robotics summer camps.

Have you found it challenging to be a woman interested in technology? If so, in what way?

The biggest challenge is probably lack of representation. I didn’t really notice the gender disparity until I was taking AP computer science as a sophomore. Out of 30 kids in the class, there were five or six girls. So the lack of representation was intimidating enough for me to consider dropping the class.

What is some advice you would offer to younger girls who may be interested in STEM fields?

The biggest advice I would give to younger girls is don’t be intimidated into not pursuing what you want to pursue because it might seem scary now. In the future, you’ll be glad you went after what you wanted to do.

Are there certain people who have inspired you to pursue your interests?

I think that I would not be where I am without the support and guidance that I’ve gotten from my parents. They never said no to anything I wanted to pursue, which I think is not something that a lot of kids can say.

What are your plans after high school?

I am deciding between the University of Minnesota and Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) where I hope to major in math and economics.

This story was originally published in the spring issue of Experience EPS during the 2017-18 school year, which was mailed to the community in May 2018.