January 18, 2011

Good News Tuesday: Nana Yaa Kwansa - Future Face of Technology

BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) is wrote a check worth more than $10,000 from the Bemley Scholarship Fund for the first time in its 18-year history! Nana Yaa Kwansa is a truly remarkable young woman. I believe that she is the second person in the 25-year history of the BDPA high school computer competition (HSCC) who has been a member of the national HSCC championship team in four (4) different years. Yaa was a national HSCC champion in 2007-2010.

Yaa is currently a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to college, Yaa attended Schaeffer Academy, a high school in Rochester Minnesota, and graduated in May 2010. Yaa joined BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter in 2005 and enrolled in their Youth Computer Training Program (YCTP) which is a subset of the Student Information Technology Education and Scholarship (SITES) program that exists nationwide. Yaa was an alternate on the silver-medal HSCC team in 2006.  However, she never earned less than a gold medal once she was selected to participate on the national HSCC team from Rochester MN.

Here is Yaa's story in her own words:

When I joined the BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter and enrolled in Youth Computer Training Program (YCTP) in fall 2005, little did I know what was ahead of me. A number of high school students meet in a rigorous computer programming class for 3 hours each Saturday for about 8 months throughout the year. The top 5 are selected to represent the chapter in a national competition.

In my first year participating in YCTP, I did not excel in class, but I quickly learned every web technology that was taught, including HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL relational databases and others. By the end of the second year, I could create full-fledged database driven web applications. I was a little nervous in class because most of the students were older than my age. However, I was proud to be among the 5 students selected each year for four consecutive years to represent the chapter.

In 2007, not only did I return to class, but I personally recruited a diverse group of new students to join the YCTP.
I approached the YCTP class that year with a new resolve, committed not only to earning a spot on the competition team, but also helping my fellow classmates to succeed. 2007 was my first year on the HSCC team, and I was given the opportunity to learn various roles for the competition, serving as the database administrator, technical writer, and lead tester. To prepare for the national competition, we had a boot camp. My fellow teammates and I worked several weeks throughout the summer, practicing computer programming, project management, presentation and teamwork. The coordinators and the volunteers were excellent and usually kept the training interesting and alive.

The National HSCC Championship was held in Washington DC that year, (and other years) we competed against over 20 other chapters from much larger cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Throughout a 2-day national competition, culminating in a 7-hour web programming project, our hard work (usually) paid off and the Southern Minnesota team earned the 1st place award. It was a great experience for me. With that experience, the competitions in Atlanta, Raleigh and Philadelphia were not different, and we maintained the 1st position.

I started YCTP as an unskilled ‘computer programmer’ making appearances and putting in a few hours weekly. However, I have to say that I ended up a different person with leadership skills, human relations skills, passion for making a difference, having the sense of satisfaction, and other virtues. With the kind of commitment the coordinators and volunteers demonstrated in training and supporting the class, I have also come to understand the value and the importance of giving back to the community. The impact of feeling just a little bit more positive about life, and the spirit of generosity – giving back unconditionally to others, even to strangers as well.

I hope that you will share your thoughts in the COMMENTS area for Nana Yaa!  More importantly, I hope that you see the value in helping us grow the Dr. Jesse Bemley Scholarship Fund ... we can only keep these scholarships going out in the future if you make an online donation today!

Oh yeah -- for those BDPA historians out there -- Brittany Middleton was a member of the HSCC teams trained by BDPA Memphis who won national HSCC championships in four different years (2001-2004).  Brittany graduated from University of Tennessee Knoxville and she now has a job teaching.   Our understanding is that only Brittany and Nana Yaa have the distinction of being 4-time national HSCC champions!

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