Education

CODeLLA summer camp prepares Latina girls for futures in technology

Kara Oliveira, left, and Tamara Navarre, 10, both look back as Kara waves to their computer mentor as she entered back of the room at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus.
Kara Oliveira, left, and Tamara Navarre, 10, both look back as Kara waves to their computer mentor as she entered back of the room at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. Miami Herald Staff

A group of 20 young Latina girls, ages 9 through 12, have graduated from CODeLLA Summer Immersion Camp, which teaches them about technology, entrepreneurship and computer coding.

CODeLLA, a Miami-based science program, partnered with the Centro Mater Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on childcare and education for underprivileged youth. The eight-week camp is the first summer program of its kind for preteen Hispanic girls in the United States.

Founder Josie Goytisolo spoke on how she came up with the idea for CODeLLA: “I saw that the world was changing profoundly. All business is incumbent on being technologically innovative. I saw a new literacy that was going to be needed.”

The students completed a variety of tasks and lessons including disassembling and reassembling computers, working with fractals, application and website design, creating digital portfolios, digital navigation, computer programming languages, binary concepts and coding systems.

The graduation began with a few speakers involved with the program including an inspirational talk by keynote speaker Ken Comée, CEO of CareCloud, a Miami cloud-based software company for healthcare providers.

Comee told the graduates that their CODeLLA training marks the beginning of what they can do in their professional lives. “You can do anything you choose,” he said.

The presentation of the girls’ projects, announced by student founder and Harvard freshman Maia Suazo-Maler, came in groups. These girls created four different apps using coding to help people in their daily lives.

The four apps: WeCare, to help bullied children; Living with Diabetes, to help people struggling with the disease; Zappy the Gerbil, to keep records of migraines; and FoodSnap, to show nutritional facts with a picture.

The diploma presentation was followed by a few more influential speakers, including Wilfredo Fernandez, founding director of CREATE Miami, an educational initiative with Miami Dade College, and co-founder of LAB Miami, a Wynwood complex for classes, workshops and special events. The graduation ended with a long applause.

“We had a lot of fun. We had to learn teamwork and we had to cooperate to make a good app,” said Allison Martinez, 10, a CODeLLA student.

CODeLLA is set to launch Start-Up Latina high school and college editions.

“For us Hispanics and especially these girls, it is an even bigger struggle with technology. We want the parents to buy into it as well. It makes a big difference,” said Madelyn Llanes, director of the childcare center at Centro Mater.

Said Goytisolo: “The girls and their families are ecstatic. We are changing lives.”

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