HSCC Alumni, Nick Akogyeram
My first experience with Computer Science and Information Technology came in my sophomore year of high school. I was part of the Southern Minnesota BDPA chapter from 2004 to 2006. My parents wanted my brother and me to join this extracurricular activity after Mr. Francis Aning, a family friend and the president of the Southern Minnesota Chapter at the time, mentioned it to them. We were not particularly excited about giving up our Saturday mornings to do more work in addition to our school work. I just remember my parents telling me (often times repeatedly) how much of a good opportunity this class could be for us. They always taught us to be open-minded and to try new things. So I decided that I was going to give computer programming a change.
After attending the first class, my brother and I met some teenagers from other area schools that we knew and some that we didn’t know so well. There were so many people that were thrilled, energized, excited, and any other synonym that one could think of, about BDPA and computer programming that it was hard not to be so as well. There were a lot of volunteers that helped to set up, teach, and provide rides for us students. The parents of students also got involved by providing food for our break time. I began to genuinely enjoy the class and made many friends that I may not have met under normal circumstances. Our chapter became very close, similar to a large family.
The computer programming class was not just about fun and games. We were taught computer languages that professionals and computer science majors learn in college. It was difficult material, but the teachers made it fun and easy to learn. The classes and months went by quickly, almost without my noticing. Then in June, the Southern Minnesota chapter held a test to decide which students would be on the High School Computer Competition team that would compete at the competition. I wasn’t nervous about taking the exam because the class had become a pleasant experience for me, so I just took the exam without any worries. And to my surprise, I was selected to be one of the five students to represent our chapter at the 2005 National Conference held in Detroit. I became excited and nervous at the same time. Three of the students on the team had already had experience at the High School Computer Competition (two second place finishes in 2003 and 2004) and were eager to improve on the prior successful finishes. There was pressure to perform well.
In the summer of 2005 we went through “boot camp” as we affectionately called it. We spent countless hours of our summer vacation practicing various skills such as computer programming, problem solving, professionalism and proper presentation etiquette. Some meetings were extensive and seemed to never come to end, but our camaraderie helped to get us through the lengthy sessions.
We were so well prepared and eager to show our newly acquired skills at the High School Computer Competition. When we arrived at Detroit, it was unbelievable to see so many people of African American descent, but more importantly that were inspired and working hard to do well. I was used to being one of few who strived for excellence; often teased and feeling the need to hide my talents to fit in with the social norm. Seeing that many young African Americans that held academics as a high priority and could still have a good time was something that I had not experienced in my life. It was refreshing and I suddenly felt I wanted to show the world everything that I had learned in the past year. Our team spent the final nights before the competition practicing everything that we had learned and honing our skills.
The competition consisted of three parts, a written test, a web-site assignment, and a presentation to judges. We did well on the written test achieving the highest composite score of the teams competing. Then we had seven hours to build a web-site for college students to order Personal Computers, laptops, and accessories online. It was challenging problem that took us the full seven hours to complete. At the end of the presentation part and the competition, my friends and I felt content with our performance and could do nothing but leave the decision up to the judges. The banquet that evening seemed to last forever, and of course the program had the presentation of the winners of the High School Computer Competition as the very last event. Our chapter impatiently awaited the announcement of the winners. Just before they announced that we had won first place, the announcer said a quote from Angi Porter, one of my teammates. It was fitting seeing as she had been on the team for the past three years and won tenth place and second place twice. She worked extremely hard to get us over the hump and win first place. Everyone was so proud us including ourselves. We were able to enjoy the first place finish and relax that evening.
I participated in the Youth Computer Training Program the following year but I did not attend the conference in Los Angeles. My overall experience was priceless and I am so thankful for the friends and skills that I obtained from BDPA. I would not trade it for anything, and I will testify to everyone that they should try new things because one will never know what one is capable of. I am now attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
I would encourage anyone to join BDPA to get same experience I had. Finally I would like to say thank you to Mr. Aning and my parents for getting me involved in BDPA, my brother, Mr. Doug Porter, Angi Porter, Kathryn Wiseman, Matthew Mayweathers, and Lauren Pemberton (my teammates and friends), the rest of the YCTP students and all of the teachers and volunteers for their support. Our achievement is an example that God rewards those who work hard to accomplish their goals.