“The Aspirations in Computing Awards”


Akina Lindley (senior), Sierra Alma (junior) and Alexis Dobbs (sophomore) won awards in February of 2021 from the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT). Sierra and Alexis won National Certificates of Distinction, making them the second and third students at TL to win a National level distinction. Akina won her second in a row State Award, making her the first TLHS student to win the award twice. This is the fourth year in a row that TL has had students recognized by NCWIT.


NCWIT seeks to foster interest in Computer and Technology fields among young women, who are severely underrepresented in those fields, by recognizing highly achieving females in High School STEM class with awards and introduction into an online community of professional women who are already in the technology world. To win an award, they must submit an application and have a recommendation letter from a qualified teacher who can speak to their tech capabilities.


Mr. McAtee, the Computer Programming teacher at TLHS and the NCWIT Indiana Educator of the Year for 2018, explains the need for such a program this way. “NCWIT has helped me understand some fundamental differences in the thinking between men and women that have helped to bring more girls into computer science classes at TLHS. “A few years ago at one of the award banquets, there was one speaker from a Fortune 500 company who said, “Girls, there are 150 of you in this room tonight and I would hire every last one of you, but I will never get the chance. A woman looks at a job description with 10 items that a company wants and says “I have two of those. They won’t take me. I’m not going to apply. ” A man looks at the same list and has the same two items and says, “Well, I’ve got two of those. I’ll give it a shot and see what they say.” And the man gets the job because the woman never applies. Girls, you have to show up. You have to do the paperwork.”


McAtee adds, “So every chance I get, when I see a girl show any sort of interest in technology, I ask her if she would like to learn more about her phone, her laptop, networking, cybersecurity or whatever it is that she is talking about and invite her to think about taking one of our classes in that subject. We cover just about everything in I.T. at TLHS, so it’s not hard to find a class that might be of interest. And when she takes one of those classes, her friends see what she is doing and they become interested and may sign up for the class too. So with girls, it’s word of mouth and seeing what their friends are doing that encourage them to pursue tech classes and jobs.”


This year, Akina Lindley won her second Regional (State) award in a row. Akina has participated in Cyberpatriot, a national Cybersecurity Team competition every year for four years. She has advanced to the National Championship two years in a row for Business Professionals of America (Linux – 2 years in a row, Network Design Team once). She is currently taking Mr. McAtee’s Cybersecurity class and will pursue a career in Law after High School.


Sierra Alma won a National Certificate of Distinction from NCWIT this year. Sierra has participated in Cyberpatriot for three years, starting and co-captaining an all female team. She has programmed the robot for the First Robotics Team at TLHS for the last two years. She is currently taking three tech classes at TLHS: Database, Networking, and Informatics. She plans to study robotics after High School.


Alexis Dobbs also won a National Certificate of Distinction from NCWIT this year. Alexis has co-captained her Cyberpatriot team with Sierra for the last two years and has recruited other girls to their tea. She has taken Information Tech Support 1 and 2 and Computer Science at TLHS and works for the TLHS I.T. Department in the summers. She plans to pursue something techy after High School.


All three girls will be recognized for their achievements at the annual NCWIT Awards Banquet in April 2021. “It’s going to be virtual this year but I’m going to try to get them all together in my room with their parents for the event and maybe have pizza while we watch them get their awards,” said McAtee. “The speakers are always amazing and inspiring. I always come away with something that makes me a better teacher. I know these girls will hear something that spurs them on to greatness.”