High School Computer Competition Testimonial

Yaa Kwansa

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 times, practicing computer programming, project management, presentation and teamwork. The coordinators and the volunteers were excellent and usually kept the training interesting and alive.

At the National Competition 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 the1st position.

Even though I started YCTP as unskilled ‘computer programmer’ making appearance and putting in a few hours weekly, 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.