SPARCing College Success — Illuminating the Path

As students approach high school completion, they usually harbor numerous concerns while contemplating a host of questions about what comes next and how they should best prepare for the future. A recent SPARCS event event hosted by the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC) program strived to provide the STEM passionate audience with an informative and inspiring view of higher education.  Panelists shined a bright light on the path that lies ahead.

Recently, 50 students took the initiative to learn from amazing panelists and volunteers from companies like Google, Target, Abbott, GiveCard, and Code42. We spent two refreshing hours together. The first hour was an interactive panel, moderated by SPARCS leader, Katie Hendricksen (Target). The panelists included Brianna McCullough (Google), Awushie Fayose (Target), Katherine Myers (Abbott), and Anna Peterson (GiveCard).  These wonderful, skilled females in technology showed us how to not only succeed in college but life after college. Topics included finding scholarships, taking advantage of opportunities that come your way, and setting boundaries in your career.  Panelists addressed many thoughtful questions posed by audience members.

In the second hour, we had breakout rooms which allowed students to informally ask questions of panelists. We also had a breakout room with Abby Fisher (Code42). She talked about what a recruiter looks for and how to create an effective, appealing resume. While Briana discussed life at Google, Awushie shared her experience traveling a non-traditional path into technology. Anna gave insight into what its’ like working at a startup that utilizes technology to address social justice issues, while Katherine gave tips on ACT success and college life.

Here are a few comments shared by audience members:

I enjoyed hearing everyone's different perspectives and journeys towards college, interns, and jobs!”

I liked the breakout rooms because I wasn't as nervous to ask a question”

I loved the panelists filling us in on how to manage our time the best and what sort of connections to make.”

I really enjoyed the breakout rooms where we could choose where we wanted to go and whom we wanted to ask questions. I felt this was the best way to handle Q&A as it could be a little closer to 1x1'.

Our diverse panelists and audience members from throughout the state were highly engaged, and it made for a relevant, enjoyable experience.  

Here’s how you can benefit from the experience as well.

By: Katie Hendricksen

About SPARCS/MNAiC:  Sustaining Passion, Ambition and Resolve for Career Success (SPARCS) is a year-round program designed to inspire female high school student interest in technology careers.  The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Program (MNAiC) is a talent development program that supports and guides female students to pursue an IT education and career path.

About Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence: The ITCoE exists to encourage Minnesota youth and adults to pursue careers in I.T. and computer science. Through collaboration with the tech industry, our partners, and educators; we seek out, develop, and provide low or no-cost resources that teach relevant, high demand, and applicable I.T. workforce skills.