Three Commonwealth Connections Academy Students Win “Aspirations in Computing” Award for Women


HARRISBURG, PA (January 3, 2013) Commonwealth Connections Academy freshman Sarah Knuth of Camp Hill, sophomore Courtney Thurston of Mechanicsburg and senior Athena Kao of Phoenixville recently became recipients of the Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).  

All three applied for the award by filling out an online application citing their achievements in technology and with computers over the past several years. The students were selected as the award winners for Central and Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia and will be honored at a ceremony at the University of Pittsburgh in mid-April.

Thurston explained that she is team leader and lead programmer for a FIRST Lego League team, comprised of other high school students in the community. 

Thurston and Kao were both members of CCA’s state champion 2011–12 Real World Design Challenge Team, which went on to win second at the National competition. Kao led the team as the captain and Thurston handled a lot of the team’s research and wrote the essay detailing the team’s mission planning.

Kao also explained that she uses computing technology on a daily basis for learning, research, communication and art creation.

“I began making animations and music videos to share with the world through YouTube more than four years ago,” said Kao. “So far, I have posted over 85 videos with nearly 5.6 million views in total and have over 26,000 subscribers worldwide.”

Knuth is a member on one of CCA’s Lego Robotics teams and has taken two computer programming classes and digital art classes. “I think it’s really fun to make digital art and games,” she said. “I’ve also made some fun, short animation videos in my free time.”

Sponsored by Bank of America, the Aspirations in Computing Award is part of an NCWIT talent development program that encourages young women to succeed in technology. 

Despite their advances in academia and the workforce, women are disproportionally underrepresented in computing fields. Women hold only 25 percent of all technology occupations, earn 18 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in computing, and represent just 19 percent of all Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science test-takers.

Thurston hopes that awards like this will inspire women to start changing those statistics. “I think women are obviously equally capable of participating in these fields,” she said. “This award brings to light women that have done great things in the area of technology and who also bring unique perspective to the field. Hopefully this will inspire other women to get involved in technology and computers.”

In the future, Thurston hopes to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale or University of New Haven. After graduating in spring 2013, Kao hopes to attend a college of her choice and major in computer science, while Knuth also hopes to go onto college and work in a technology-related field.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading, fully accredited provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual schooling for students in grades K through 12. Through tuition-free public schools, and full-time and part-time private school programs, Connections Academy delivers superior, personalized education for students, with the freedom and flexibility to experience our online learning community from anywhere. The combination of certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. In the 2012–13 school year, Connections Academy will serve students in 22 states via 24 virtual public schools. It serves students worldwide through the online private school, National Connections Academy. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some public school programs do not offer all grades. For more information, call 800–382–6010 or visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com. Connections Academy and its parent company, Connections Education, are part of the global learning company Pearson (NYSE:PSO) www.Pearson.com.