CS Student Anthony Hicks Receives STARS Grant to Teach CS to Mississippi High School Students

Members of Illinois Tech’s Students in Technology, Academia, Research, and Service (STARS) Computing Corps traveled to Mississippi over spring break to teach computer science to local high school students. Anthony Hicks, a senior in the Co-Terminal Bachelor of Science in Computer Science/Computer Science Master’s program and president of STARS at Illinois Tech, was awarded a STARS grant that allowed him, a faculty member, and three fellow students to introduce coding to students at his former high school in Mississippi.

STARS Computing Corps is a national organization that includes over 55 universities working together to broaden participation in computing and grow a diverse technology workforce. According to Computing Research News, African Americans are underrepresented in the field of computer science. Even though they comprise 13.2% of the United States population, their current representation in computer science is not proportional. Although Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans relative to population out of all the states in the U.S., no African American students have taken the AP computer science exam in the past three years. Because of this, Hicks said, “I saw a clear opportunity to spread the STARS mission in my home state.”

Using the grant, Hicks, along with Vida Winans, adjunct faculty in computer science, and computer science students Anna Eng (4th year), Liam Walsh (3rd year), and Junjie Ying, senior in the Co-Terminal Bachelor of Science in Computer Science/Computer Science Master’s program, spent spring break week in Greenville, Miss. teaching basic programming concepts and constructs to high schoolers whose curricula does not include coding. They used Scratch programming language and videos from code.org to introduce them to ideas such as algorithms, binary, and input/output. They also spent a night speaking to the Youth Enrichment Services (Y.E.S.) Group, which is a recovery program for youth who have experienced domestic violence or the death of a loved one due to a violent crime. Hicks is a volunteer and mentor for Y.E.S. when he is home. They discussed general issues about applying to college and college life, and delved into some specifics about majoring in computer science.

To learn more about STARS at Illinois Tech, visit their website.