India Franklin, a senior at Paul W. Bryant High School, didn’t always know what she wanted to do when she grew up.
At first, she thought she might want to be a veterinarian and work with animals. Then she thought about a variety of other jobs—becoming an artist, a professional violinist, a lawyer, an author, or even a detective. But a new course offered at her school changed her career goals—and possibly her future. Franklin now wants to be a computer programmer.
And apparently she’s good at it.
Franklin was the only student in the Tuscaloosa City Schools named as a state winner for the National Center for Women & Information Technology Aspirations Award program this month, which focuses on increasing the participation of girls and women in computing, in innovation and development. Franklin will go on to compete for the national award, which comes with scholarship money, along with recognition from universities and possible internships.
Franklin said she’s always enjoyed video games, and even studied programming languages like C++ and C# on her own. And so when one of her favorite teachers, Destiny Langford, began teaching Advanced Placement Computer Science Principals, she signed up.
“And then she found out that she was really, really good at it,” Langford said of India. “I’d be teaching one thing, and she was already advancing to another skill.”
“I like being hands on, and also helping people,” Franklin said. “And people who are software developers can make educational games or whatever app and help people. It’s the best option for me—and a passion of mine.”
After she graduates from high school this spring, Franklin plans to go to college in Texas to study computer science.
Computer science was also an unexpected passion for Langford, a physics teacher at Bryant who did not have a background in the field when she came to the school 2.5 years ago, other than having an interest in robotics. But she has gone through training at The University of Alabama and now teaches not only two fairly new computer science courses at Bryant, but also is the sponsor of the school’s robotics club. Her computer science course has grown from 8 students in her first semester in 2020 to 43 students spanning two different courses, including the AP computer science class and an introductory class called “Exploring Computer Science.”
Langford said she is hopeful the school will expand its computer science offerings so that a full four levels of courses are offered at the high school, and possibly an introductory class taught at Eastwood middle, the feeder school for Bryant.
It’s an important career field, one that is critical for the future, Langford said. That's also something Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has recognized, putting a focus on sustained expansion of computer science education in the state.
Like Franklin, Langford was also recognized by the NCWIT this month as one of only three educators in Alabama receiving an award. She was named as the recipient of the NCWTI Aspirations Honorable Mention award for computer science education.
“I was not expecting to get thrown into teaching this,” Langford said. “But I discovered it’s something I really enjoy.”