Shawnee is 14. She didn’t know anything about coding before she was sent to Wyoming Girls’ School in Sheridan, roughly five months ago.
Then, she took her first coding class. When it was over, she started another class — online — in her free time. The school is a secure juvenile justice facility, working to bring better technology into its classrooms.
Here’s her account of how she became a coding convert:
I didn’t particularly like computers. I didn’t like technology. I was just that teenager who texted all the time and who was talking on the phone all the time. I didn’t really bother to find out how things work.
So when I first started coding, I thought “This is weird,” because I don’t usually like this stuff. Then our class did Hour of Code, [a one-hour introduction to computer science, teaching anyone who wants to participate the basics]. And I knew I needed to know more about it. I asked my teacher to give me some paper. I was takin’ notes.
My grandma always told me that if you’re doing something you love, you’re at peace with yourself. And when I think about coding, and do coding, I’m at peace with myself.
Sometimes I get really stressed out, with all the things that are going on in my life. And when I code I realize it helps me think about that, and not about the things I can’t change. It also reminds me that there are things I can change, and that even when it’s hard to overcome obstacles, you can.
After her first coding class at Wyoming Girls’ School, Shawnee discovered her hidden passion for the work.
People have asked me what you want to do when you grow up, and I used to say, “I don’t know, get rich quick somehow, I guess.” And now, with coding, I feel like I can have a steady job and a job that I have a passion for. And people always ask me, “What about retirement, and what if you turn 60 and want to retire and live out in the field somewhere and have a family and stuff?” and I always tell them, that when you’re doing something you have a passion for, it’s not going to matter whether it includes retirement or not, because you’re gonna want to do it forever.
To hear more of Shawnee’s story, click the audio player above.