DCTC Upward Bound Partnering with Girls Dream Code

Two Rivers Upward Bound students experience hands-on tech workshop

TRIO Upward Bound at Dakota County Technical College is partnering with Girls Dream Code, a nonprofit organization that provides free tech workshops to girls of color and low-income girls, ages 10–17. The workshops are designed to empower the girls to follow career paths in the technology sector. According to Exploding Topics, women are employed in just 26.7 percent of tech-related jobs with that percentage actually decreasing over the last two years.

Upward Bound students at Two Rivers High School recently took part in a panel discussion with four female tech professionals led by Victoria Kyereme, Girls Dream Code founder, executive director, and board president. Victoria also participated on the panel; she works as a software engineer. The Upward Bound students were assigned the task to build their own websites over the course of the workshops.

“I really enjoy showing BIPOC and low-income girls and youth ways to be creative and innovative when it comes to tech and computer science,” Victoria said. “I did not have these resources when I was growing up, and it is important to create that safe space for these youth to see themselves as more than capable to learn these tech skills that are so needed today.”

Girls Dream Code panelists (left to right): Sudarsna Mukund, machine learning engineer, Target :: Tisbia Mutombo, associate software engineer, Best Buy :: Sophia Long, health care analyst, UCare :: Alicia Jackson, principal healthcare analyst, UCare :: Victoria Kyereme, Girls Dream Code founder, software engineer

Girls Dream Code panelists

More about the partnership…

Caitlin Siefkes serves as TRIO/Upward Bound director at DCTC. Caitlin reported that the partnership with Girls Dream Code is made possible by a Minnesota Office of Higher Education Intervention for College Attendance Grant Program (ICAP) grant.

Caitlin Siefkes

“DCTC Upward Bound was awarded $119,000 over two years,” she said. “Students in 9th and 10th grade participated in a comprehensive academic and social-emotional advising program to ensure they begin high school in good academic standing and begin building the social-emotional skills they need to be successful in high school and college.”

Caitlin noted that 11th and 12th grade students participated in a college and career preparation program that encouraged them to build the skill sets they’ll need to thrive in STEAM careers. STEAM is a creative scholastic approach that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math. Upward Bound students get the chance to explore college majors and connect with industry professionals to gain real-world work experience and begin assembling their professional networks.

“We have been partnering with Girls Dream Code over the last two years to offer multiple computer programming courses to our students,” Caitlin added. “We have absolutely loved working with Girls Dream Code. Their mission of increasing diversity in tech careers closely aligns with one of the objectives of our ICAP grant. It’s been great to introduce our students to people working in tech who look like them. Through this partnership, our students have learned basic coding skills in multiple programming languages and have been introduced to the wide variety of careers that involve coding.”

Victoria Kyereme Q & A

Victoria Kyereme

Victoria is a professional software engineer. She founded Girls Dream Code in 2020 as one way to help inspire more women of color to find career and life success in technology-driven occupations.
What do you find most rewarding about your work with Girls Dream Code?

I enjoy helping students learn how to code and learn something new and seeing them understand how these concepts work when it is explained to them in a relatable way. I also really enjoy showing girls of color that someone that looks like them and came from a similar background can breakthrough in a career that is still heavily white male dominated.

What are the most common challenges students encounter when first learning about coding and software development?

A lot of the common challenges that students encounter is getting used to the syntax of code. Different programming languages have different syntaxes, and so remembering all of them, and the rules of how it should all be formatted, can be overwhelming and challenging in the beginning. But it all comes with time, practice, and persistence.

What are the next steps students can take when they discover they really enjoy coding?

Students can always continue their coding journey by continuing to self study and work on different beginner projects in different programming languages. It is a great way to challenge yourself and add on to your tech skills. There are a lot of articles online that suggest different project ideas that you can tackle, and at different proficiency levels too.

Of course, students can further their education by taking computer science courses in higher education or through tech bootcamps. Students can create a free GitHub account, which is sort of like an online portfolio where you can store all of your code and projects in a public repository, and showcase your projects.

What are the most significant traits of a creative and accomplished coder?

The most significant traits are the ability to learn and adapt. Being a software engineer, you are always learning new tools and new trends. There is never one specific way to write code or to solve a problem when it comes to developing software, so you have to be able to learn, adapt, and also teach effectively.

The more we know, the better, and the more that we share our knowledge, only helps you grow as a software developer. Knowing how to collaborate with others and bounce ideas off of one another is another great skill to have because in the real world, you will be working on a team.

Learn more about Victoria Kyereme and Girls Dream Code via the following links:

Upward Bound student perspective: Meron Abebe

Meron Abebe

Age: 16
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota
11th grader at Two Rivers High School
College plans: Dream school is Brown University
Academic trajectory: Psychology major

Meron Abebe Q & A

What do you like best about Upward Bound?

I like the fact that they nurture and motivate all my high goals. They never doubt that I can’t do something; instead, they show me methods to reach my goals faster. With Upward Bound, I’ve had endless connections and have grasped the real concept of college. With the endless college experience from college tours or guest speakers, I am filled with assurance that I will thrive in college thanks to Upward Bound.

What is the subject of the website you created?

My website is a mixture of an autobiography and a quiz all about me. The homepage states the reason why I made this website and what I think will create it. Then there are numerous sections with key milestones of my life. They include elementary, middle, and high school. Once you select the part of my life you’re most confident about getting right in the quiz, a series of questions will pop up about that stage in my life.

What did you enjoy most about your website project?

I like that the website is a reflection of my life and lets others know more about me. I can use it when I meet new people, and once I grow up I can look back to it and reminisce on my school days. Also, I never thought I would be making a website any time soon so making one at 16 makes me feel proud of myself.

What advice would you give students thinking about participating in Upward Bound?

I would advise them to participate and take advantage of all the resources. Don’t skip out on events just because you can. Instead, attend everything and decide later if it was worth it or not. Because you are likely to be glad you came rather than glad you didn’t even try.

Upward Bound student perspective: Lukas Teuber-Alliev

Lukas Teuber-Alliev

Age: 16
Hometown: West St. Paul, Minnesota
10th grader at Two Rivers High School
College plans: Inver Hills Community College
Career trajectory: Astronomy

Lukas Teuber-Alliev Q & A

What do you like best about Upward Bound?

What I like best about Upward Bound is how tightly knit it is. Everybody is very close with one another, and you can feel free to talk about whatever without being judged. It is a very open environment.

What is the subject of the website you created?

The subject of my website was about one of my favorite foods, macaroni and cheese.

What did you enjoy most about your website project?

The thing I enjoyed most about the website project was just generally learning how to code. Coding is a fantastic skill to have, the fact that the program offers opportunities for students is amazing and I hope to do some general coding in the future because of this experience.

What advice would you give students thinking about participating in Upward Bound?

Go for it! Upward Bound has little to no problems, completely free, and a genuine community that will make you feel like a part of them. Especially if you need college help, Upward Bound is a great program to participate in.

Upward Bound/Girls Dream Code panel discussion gallery

View more event photos by visiting the DCTC Flickr album:

DCTC Upward Bound and Girls Dream Code Partnership

More about TRIO/Upward Bound at DCTC…

Part of the family of Federal TRIO programs, Upward Bound at Dakota County Technical College is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO programs ensure equal educational opportunities for all students by providing skills and information needed to overcome class, social, and cultural barriers to higher education.

Upward Bound delivers academic support as well as personalized guidance to help qualifying high school students continue their education at the college level. Low-income and/or potential first-generation college students have the potential to succeed in college, but they may be unaware of the many academic and career options possible after high school. The DCTC Upward Bound program closes that gap.


Learn more about TRIO/Upward Bound at DCTC by contacting:

Caitlin Siefkes
Director of TRIO/Upward Bound
Dakota County Technical College