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Tech Trailblazer Gwyn Coonce - Empowering Women in Computer Science

girl standing in classroom


Did you know that there are more than 800,000 unfilled jobs in computing in the U.S. today? These jobs are in every industry and every state, and they’re projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs. The pressing question then becomes: Who is stepping up to meet the demand, and what untapped potential lies within our schools?

Today, I'm thrilled to shed light on the transformative power of computer science education, especially for young women in our K-12 school district. While colleges are reporting that only about 18% of their computer science majors are female, I’d like to spotlight one remarkable LSR7 student who is not merely navigating the digital landscape but thriving in it - meet Gwyn Coonce.

Gwyn is a junior at Lee’s Summit High School. She attends Summit Technology Academy where she is taking classes in Java and Python. She began taking classes at LSHS when she took Computer Science Essentials as a freshman followed by AP Computer Science Principles as a sophomore. Now, as part of the MIC program (a partnership between LSR7, Metropolitan Community College, University of Central Missouri and 65 Kansas City area businesses),  Gwyn is set to graduate with her Associate’s Degree when she completes high school next year. She will earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science just two years later.

So what inspired Gwyn’s passion to get started in computer science? Her inspiration traces back to an hour of code in elementary school and later, a Girls Who Code club meeting in middle school. She believes that this early exposure played a pivotal role in where she stands today. Now, Gwyn wants to share that passion and aims to inspire the next generation of female computer scientists. As President of the LSHS Girls Who Code club, Gwyn organizes a meet up once or twice a month for Saturday coding camps to teach mini coding lessons to young girls in our district. Acting as a great role model, she is paying it forward by giving back to the up-and-coming young girls in our community by offering up this same opportunity which piqued her interest as a young girl.

When asked about the barriers that discourage young women from taking computer science classes, Gwyn points to misconceptions. She notes, "it seems daunting or challenging, or just the stereotype that it’s all a bunch of gamer guys." Gwyn wants to debunk these myths, emphasizing that it's not as hard as it seems, and the community is welcoming. Her favorite part of computer science? The creativity it unleashes; she loves creating something and witnessing the end result, citing a story-based game as her favorite AP project.

With each computer science class, Gwyn has grown more confident. Her advice to other young women interested in coding is simple: "Just give it a try. Even if it’s just block coding at first, just try it and see how you do. It doesn’t matter if you fail the first time as most of the beginning process is trial and error." She also encourages them to get involved outside the classroom. In addition to Girls Who Code, Gwyn has participated in coding competitions at both Kansas State University and Northwest Missouri State University. 

Looking ahead, Gwyn has been nominated to represent Summit Technology Academy at LEGiT KC, a prestigious summer program providing tech exposure, career guidance, leadership opportunities, and invaluable mentorship. As part of the MIC program next year, Gwyn will attend classes at MCC in Longview, participate in an internship, and complete her Associate's Degree in Computer Science. She'll continue her journey at UCM for two years, aiming not only for her Bachelor’s in Computer Science but also a minor in Cybersecurity - all by the age of 20. Gwyn is poised to enter the workforce in the field she's been passionate about for so long.

As we celebrate Gwyn's achievements, it's a testament to the endless possibilities that computer science education unlocks for our students, showcasing the bright future that lies ahead for young women in the tech world. The journey doesn't end here; it's an inspiring call to action for all to embrace the world of coding and innovation. The future is bright, and it's filled with empowered individuals like Gwyn Coonce leading the way.

Note: If you are interested in exploring computer science classes in LSR7, view the Information Technology Course Flowchart. Course descriptions can be found in the Career & Education Planning Guide on the LSR7 District website.