HSCC Alumni, Angela Porter is a Freshman, Legal Communications Major in the Howard University class of 2010
It is so great to know that I am still in the thoughts of those who have greatly inspired me. Everyone I’ve met through BDPA has greatly influenced my life, and I am both honored and excited to share my HSCC experience with others.
I was part of BDPA’s High School Computer Competition between 2002 and 2005. I absolutely have to count 2002 because that was the year that Southern Minnesota’s team came in 10th place. We were in Orlando that year enjoying DisneyWorld as we were pampered by the organization every hour of the day. The hotel was marvelous, the food was wonderful, and DisneyWorld, of course, was great. Orlando showed me something very important that has stayed with me since 2002: that there were young African Americans just like me who were intelligent, driven, and unashamed of being that way. We all had the same goal, and instead of being strange or out of the norm, that felt entirely natural. Being around so many Black intellectuals gave me a sense of belonging and pride that I just haven’t been able to let go. Had it not been for HSCC 2002, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, and today I feel that I am in a great place.
Winning second place in 2003, I believe, was the direct result of our 10th place standing in 2002. I remember leaving Orlando after losing that year feeling extremely motivated to do well the next year. The competitiveness of HSCC is extreme. If anything, when you walk into the competition you want nothing but to do well. You want people to see how hard you have been working. In 2002, we learned how it felt to lose out, and to me, that was absolutely necessary in order for us to win.
After a brief break after returning home, we worked diligently every session, fueled off of our experience in Orlando. We learned new technologies and studied our old code. We read the required material and took it as doctrine. We practiced often, and after the team for HSCC was chosen, we practiced even more. What we liked to refer to as “boot camp” came during the summertime. The HSCC team became a true family because we worked together until we were tired of each other, and we continued to work until we liked each other again. My father was instrumental in molding us into a team and giving us the necessary tools for competing. We all had our individual roles to complement each other. Although I was considered lead programmer, the balance of the team never rested on my shoulders.
When we traveled to Philadelphia, we were ten times more focused than the year before. There was no playing around because we wanted to win. We didn’t skip any session; every opportunity to practice was taken without question. Upon arriving, we familiarized ourselves with the software, the computers, and started scheduling our time. Although we practiced often, we still had a lot of fun in Philly - after the competition was over!
The competition that year was tough. The problem was a military deployment problem that involved a lot of database relationships. There were a ton of pictures and icons, and a lot of processes were required. We spent seven hours doing what we had been doing for the past months. We felt comfortable, focused, and capable of solving the problem. After the competition, which seems long and arduous but really goes by very fast, we knew that we had done something great. We went out into the city, celebrated, and hoped for the best. At the banquet (I’ve always loved the banquets), we held hands tight as the teams were called. When they called us for second place, we felt as if we had won! There was no defeat in us. We had come from 10th place to 2nd, putting Southern Minnesota’s team “on the map.” We had made it.
After winning second place, we didn’t stop. As soon as we started class again, we redid our problem to make it perfect. We didn’t modify the code, we completely redid it. Moreover, the team was changing; there were different team members, people graduated, and the structure of the class changed. That year, we worked extremely hard, critiquing our own code the most. We weren’t trying to beat Memphis as much as we were trying to beat ourselves.
In Dallas, we were in the same mindset as in Philly: extremely focused. We got 2nd place again. Thankful, we knew we still needed to improve. The following year, we sharpened our skills in all areas, focusing more and more on presentation skills and professionalism. Around Minnesota, we were starting to be recognized by community leaders and our school district. Everyone was so supportive, and we had our “team-family” to lean on during long nights of practice.
When we got to Detroit, we faced some tough competitors, teams that seemed to come out of nowhere. We knew that all of the chapters were on their “A-game,” so predicting the outcome was impossible. We just knew to stay humble and focus on the problem. By that time, competing was second-nature to the veterans of the team, so our new teammates were comfortable and focused as well. I remember walking out of the room after seven hours (really about eight since we were one of the last teams to present), feeling so happy. It was my last year competing, and I was pleased about the work I had contributed. I knew that we’d put forth our best effort.
Winning that year was surreal. We had worked so hard over the past few years, and it seemed as if we were being rewarded not for winning that particular problem but for all of the effort we had given up until that point. The win was not just for the HSCC team; it was for the YCTP students who came to the conference with us, the teammates that had graduated, the volunteers who had taught us, and all of the parents and friends who had supported us. Winning first place in HSCC was a high point in my life that I will never forget. However, the experience of BDPA as a whole was even more valuable. BDPA taught me so much about teamwork, leadership, and perseverance. It showed me that I had abilities I never thought I had.
Now, I attend one of the most prestigious universities in the country, and I am having the time of my life. I have taken so many of the skills I gained from BDPA and applied them here in school. For that reason, I am forever indebted to BDPA because I believe those skills and experiences will continue to carry me to success during my lifetime.