Girls Who Code show what public schools can do

Mylan Park Elementary’s Girls Who Code Club visited Charleston Monday for “Country Roads Codes Day at the Capitol.” While there, these girls spoke to legislators and visitors about the computer science program at “The Park,” as the elementary school is affectionately called, and even taught some lawmakers how to code.

We’re so proud of the Girls Who Code and their ambassadorship. They are a shining example of what West Virginia’s future can hold.

And they’ve given us an opportunity to talk about the bigger picture: how a good public school can change kids’ lives.

According to, about 53% of Mylan Park Elementary’s students qualify for free lunches — three percentage points higher than the state average. We know, from multitudes of research, that chronically low income and poverty can create a cycle that entraps entire generations. We know that steady, higher incomes open doors for even better opportunities and social mobility.

Now look at these girls, learning computer coding in elementary school — an opportunity given to them, for free, by their (also free) public school.

We don’t know any of these girls’ specific economic situations, but let’s pretend, based on the percent of Mylan Park students who get free lunches, that three of the six girls come from low-income families. And maybe those families don’t have their own computers or smart devices, and maybe they have limited internet access.

It was their school that provided them with the tools and the teaching to learn coding. (The Park also celebrated Hour of Code Day on Dec. 7, where all students in the school spent an hour learning how to code.) That opportunity was not limited by their socioeconomic background; it was given freely because the school could afford to do so.

What they learn now could set them up for a career in computer science — possibly without needing a college degree — that has an average entry-level salary of over $40,000 and up to an average $80,000 per year. Not bad at all, especially in a state where the median household income is around $50,000. And even if they decide not to pursue computer science as a career path, coding is a great skill to have in our tech-driven world.

We hope legislators paid close attention to Mylan Park’s Girls Who Code and all the other students who were at the Capitol on Monday. Because each of those children were there because their schools could offer them opportunities that may not have been available to them otherwise.

But when school funding gets slashed — or reappropriated to charter schools — “extra” offerings like coding and music and art are the first things to go. And if the Legislature continues to defund our public schools, we may no longer see clubs like the Girls Who Code, which means those kids will lose out on chances to learn and grow.

Well-funded public schools can act as the great uplifter, offering life-changing opportunities to kids who wouldn’t have them otherwise. We mustn’t let lawmakers forget that.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *