The first season of  Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) Alumnae Stories has been a smashing hit. For those of you who are new to the Aspirations IT Connect Community, my name is Katherine Myers, I am a program alumna and ambassador, and I was the host for the first season on Instagram. 

Alumnae Stories was created to provide program participants an opportunity to connect with each other and alumnae at various stages of their journey as #womenintech. Through this Instagram story series, viewers are introduced to emerging technology talent, who are on track to become the next generation of STEM workforce leaders. 

For the last conversation of the season, we invited MNAiC State Award Winner and recent high school graduate Afiya Ward to close the season on an aspirational note.

ABOUT THE GUEST

Afiya Ward is a 2020 graduate of Central High School, St. Paul. She is a current State Winner and was a State Honorable Mention recipient in 2019 and National Certificate of Distinction recipient in 2018.  Growing up with both parents in STEM careers, Afiya has been interested in science and technology for as long as she can remember. As a middle school student at Capitol Hill, she participated in a program at the Science Museum of Minnesota called Design Team, which focused on introducing youth to STEM and STEM justice through hands-on projects and experiential learning. Since then, she has worked with Bits to Bites, a high school team in the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center, working on innovative ways to solve issues around food justice using technology.

Connect with Afiya on the Aspirations IT Connect Community or on LinkedIn.

THE CONVERSATION 

COVID has seriously disrupted our construct of normal. Since the pandemic, we’ve all had to adapt to social distancing when learning, working, and conferencing. Afiya Ward knows all too well as she has had to adapt to participating from her home where she addressed the audience as a student speaker at the first-ever virtual Aspirations in Computing Award Ceremony in May.

We’ve both attended the in-person ceremony in the past, and while we would have loved to have celebrated in a physical space, the virtual ceremony was so fun and inspirational. AiC honorees get more impressive with each passing year and Afiya is leading by way of social impact.

Ward has been an AiC program member since her sophomore year in high school. Her first year in the program she received a Certificate of Distinction in 2018, followed by a State Honorable Mention in 2019, and finally a State Winner in 2020 — way to take it home, Afiya! It’s a privilege to be able to see how other young women grow their aspirations as I did five years ago. Afiya graduated this year and plans to stay involved as a MNAiC ambassador in the years to come. We are very excited to have her join us!

[WATCH] Highlights from LIVE Chat with Alumna, Afiya Ward


Next month, Afiiya heads to Florida A&M University, where she plans to pursue a degree in agricultural business. As Afiya shared with Dawn Stevens on FOX9’s Morning Buzz, she is very passionate about food justice in the United States and wants to impact and drive change within that field. She believes the best way to combat food injustice today is to build awareness and educate yourself about the disparities. Sometimes it’s easy to think food deserts only exist in foreign lands, but quite the contrary, they exist right here, in our own neighborhoods. 

I’m comforted to know the next generation of women in tech, are eager to use their brilliance to light the world to make it a more equitable and just place for all.  The past two months have been momentous for Afiya. She’s excited about her first year away at college and is excited to experience her first internship next summer — Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of COVID, many of this summer’s MNAiC paid internships were canceled. I am optimistic the outlook for 2021 will be bright and positive. 

Best wishes on your first year at A&M, Afiya — we’re excited to watch you grow through your higher education and community experiences, to drive food justice awareness and reform.

Pictured above: Afiya Ward (center) enjoying time with her Power Of People teammates.


Lastly, thank you all so much for joining me for the first season of Alumnae Stories! The series will return this fall with a new Alumna host.  Aspirations continue to be a guiding force in my trajectory in tech.  I’ll still be active with the program, I’ll just be shifting into a leadership role mentoring program Ambassadors and looking forward to reconnecting and working more closely with some of my fellow alumnae who were featured this season.

Wear masks, stay safe, and tune in to season two this fall!

Also, don’t forget changes have been made to the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing 2020 programming in response to the pandemic. View changes here and subscribe to the Aspirations IT Connect Community to receive program updates.


WHY WE CHAT

Alumnae Stories is a syndicated Instagram series. This monthly LIVE Chat. is an effort to provide program participants an online opportunity to connect with alumnae at various stages of their journey as #womenintech, as well as industry leaders and educators.

While the conversations are primarily focused on tech, there will occasionally be an integration of engineering, biology, and other sciences. Our goal is to cultivate a safe space for girls to exchange ideas, insights, ask questions, and connect with peers, educators, and future employers.

Guest alumnae, program partners and industry leaders who agree to chat with us are driven by the desire to pay-it-forward by lending their stories, experiences, advice and professional connections to help build equity for women in the tech sector.

MEET THE HOST

Katherine Myers was a 2015 State AiC Winner during her senior year at Wayzata High School. Since then she has participated in three summer internships (2015, 2016, and 2018) that she acquired as an Aspirations Grand Prize winner. Katherine attended the University of Minnesota, where she realized an interest in the medical device field. In May 2019, she graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis in Communications, Signal Processing, and Medical Devices.

We’re incredibly proud to share that Katherine currently works as a Systems Verification Engineer at Abbott’s Cardiac Arrhythmias and Heart Failure Electrophysiology Division in Saint Paul, MN 🎉

Connect with Katherine on the Aspirations IT Connect Community or on LinkedIn.

ABOUT MINNESOTA ASPIRATIONS IN COMPUTING 

The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) Awards Program partners with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to inspire, empower, and honor young women of high school age for their computing-related achievements and interests. The program is supported by the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence and numerous businesses and organizations. The powerful story of honoree accomplishments does not end at recognition ceremonies  in April of each year, it’s just the beginning! Over 500 young women who have been honored since the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Program inception in 2012-2013 continue to pursue life-changing education and career opportunities, becoming accomplished practitioners and leaders in a variety of Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.