An open letter to Disney from a father of a girl who codes

Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program hosted by Disney’s graduation at Burbank Studios
Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program celebrating with Mickey Mouse

Dear Mr. Iger,

I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you and Disney have done to support my daughter, Olivia, and the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion program at your Burbank Studios. The support you have shown this program was incredible. You thought enough of the Girls Who Code mission to assign a full-time Disney Staff to the girls, and the work that Ben Wise and his team did on behalf of the girls was jaw-dropping. The girls got to attend The Antman and the Wasp Red Carpet Event. They got to see the technology behind the scenes at Disneyland then spend the rest of the day there. They got to see a private screening of Incredibles 2 on the Disney Studio lot. They were able to eat lunches for free at the amazing Disney cafeteria that offers sushi — (wow!). Heck, Mr. Wise’s team was so thoughtful that on particularly hot days, the Disney Team arranged for a Shaved Ice Truck to come by. And of course, the gift of the laptop computer was over the top in generosity.

But of all the amazing things that Mr. Wise arranged for the girls, there were two things that really stood out. First was the opportunity to have people, like your CIO, Susan O’Day and other women in influential tech positions, at Disney speak to the girls. Web Design, Artificial Intelligence, Imagineering, Virtual Reality — all fields at Disney where women are in prominent positions. Every night my daughter would come home and tell us their stories and backgrounds. Their stories were always so different but all were so inspiring to Olivia. For the first time in her life, we saw her connect and identify with females who like her felt inadequate in the STEM fields when they were younger. As parents, it was incredible to witness this awakening.

The second thing that really stood out was the quality of the Girls Who Code program. From her teacher, Dina, to the Peer Mentors, Camila and Franchesca, the quality of education that happened in that room was astounding. My daughter who could barely use Microsoft Word was actually designing and programming websites, coding in Python and C+ and designed this cool mobile app that helped people find exercise partners in their area and tie exercise to mental health. I would never in a million years guessed that my daughter would be remotely interested in these things. She thrived.

Finally, I want to comment on the friendships my daughter made there. There were so many girls from so many walks of life. When we went to graduation day, we were surprised to find out that the girls she had raved about were from different parts of the city and all different races. It was a rainbow of color and it was beautiful. It never occurred to Olivia mention to us that they were from vastly different backgrounds and skin color, she only cared about the character of the individual. She started talking about a “sisterhood” during the first week of the program and she hasn’t stopped talking about her “sisters” since then. In a time where women, LGBT, and people of color are being marginalized, it was uplifting to see these girls transform into this empowered aggregate of minds.

We are indebted forever to you and Reshma Saujani for bringing Girls Who Code to Disney and graciously accepting my daughter into the program. We are especially indebted to Ben Wise who put his heart and soul into this program and made Olivia and the rest of the girls feel special in every way. Olivia just adored him and how he loved surprising them with something every day. And to the staff at Girls Who Code — Dina, Camila, Franchesca and everyone behind the scenes that made such an amazing program come to life — my sincere gratitude for everything you gave to my daughter and her “sisters”.

You have transformed my child. I will never be able to thank you and Disney enough.

Sincerely,
Christopher Go
Olivia’s Dad

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