Developing True Grit Through Code
Hi! My name is KaYesu Machayo and I am a senior in high school. My mom came to America as a Ugandan refugee during Idi Amin’s reign. She landed in Virginia, and when she married my father in Maryland a few years later, they relocated to Georgia. So, I am a Georgia peach by birth!
I first became interested in technology when my family took a trip to the Tellus Science Museum when I was twelve years old. The museum had a solar home on display, and it captivated me! I was mesmerized by how it all worked and wanted to read about how scientists developed the technology to make it possible.
On the drive home that night, I thought about bringing those houses to developing countries so that people living in darkness at night could have light. It was on that drive that I decided to pursue a career in technology to transform the world. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to learn more about technology — my school did not offer any computer science or technology classes — but I knew that it was my purpose to serve others through technology!
That’s when I found the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program and decided to apply.
When I got in, the program became a safe haven for me. My father abandoned my family just a week after I began the Summer Immersion Program. He left my mother alone with four children and no home to live in. I had to move to another house over the summer and my family experienced many difficulties.
However, I never missed a day of Girls Who Code. Each morning I woke up and knew I was going to be surrounded by 19 classmates (who became my sisters for life), two college TAs and one male instructor. We were all from different ethnicities, backgrounds and national origins, but we connected through our interest in computing. I was surrounded by girls born and raised in the US and many from diverse backgrounds including Venezuela, Greece, India, Vietnam, and El Salvador. Learning about the heritage of my Girls Who Code sisters gave me a deeper understanding about the beauty of culture.
The process of learning to code reminded that hardships do not define us and are an important part of growing. Over the 7 weeks of the Summer Immersion Program, my 19 sisters and I toured an AOL Data Center and explored National Geographic; we met and saw female computer programmers in their element; and we learned to code. Through those experiences, we laughed loudly, stressed anxiously, but — most importantly — we encouraged one another.
Although the Summer Immersion Program ended, Girls Who Code continues to inspire and support me. Because of the confidence I gained in the program, I was inspired to apply to college to make my dreams of working in tech a reality. I hope to one day find a way to bring technology to girls across the country and world — especially in Uganda, where my mother’s from. As a girl who codes, I’ve learned to know my value, embrace my unique heritage, and feel confident using my voice to ask questions, bridge gaps, and build authentic relationships. Most importantly, I learned to face adversity and developed the grit to pursue excellence relentlessly.
Written by KaYesu Machayo
Originally published at imagirlwhocodes.com on January 26, 2017.