(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)
Genesis and Nyela want me to know that they’re not the type of girls you’d expect to be excited about making video games. “We’re like the girly girls of the entire group,” Nyela says, fidgeting with nervous energy. And yet, on a Wednesday afternoon in a conference room of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, the two 11-year-olds are showing off the work they’ve done creating a game.
Genesis and Nyela are part of the After-School All-Stars program, a nationwide program (founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger!) that provides after-school programming for over 70,000 kids in 13 states (including D.C.). Some 91 percent of ASAS students are youth of color, and 85 percent qualify for free or reduced price lunch. In addition to teaching sports, nutrition, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and more, ASAS runs a STEM program.
— AfterSchool AllStars (@ASASafterschool) February 9, 2017
Here in D.C., ASAS operates at five schools and runs its programming from 3:15-6:00 p.m. every school day. Students learn about circuitry, coding, robotics and more — it’s free for all. It’s a way of introducing kids to careers they might not otherwise be aware of, ASAS Executive Director Daniela Grigioni told Technical.ly.
“They’re not exposed to a lot of careers in the STEM fields,” she said. “It’s a way of capturing their science ‘bug.'”
The event on the Hill was a partnership with the Entertainment Software Association, an association for companies that publish computer and video games. The association “is committed to growing high-tech jobs and innovation in America,” according to a spokesperson — and this includes education. Partnering with ASAS allows ESA to showcase the future of the industry. They hope lawmakers will hear about, and care about, this future too.
So what draws “girly girls” like Genesis and Nyela to the program? Nyela, for one, likes “how creative you can be.” There’s nothing gendered about that.