Third Annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Award Winners Announced

News | Monday, March 16,2015

Congratulations to the 22 Minnesota High School Student Winners and Runners-Up!

St. Paul, MN (March 2015) – Advance IT Minnesota, the high-tech talent incubator run by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, today announced the names of 22 Minnesota high school students selected as winners and runners-up in the third annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards. The awards program honors young women in grades 9-12 for their computing-related achievements and interests, and was started to encourage young women to consider careers in technology, reducing the significant gender and talent gap in the field. Honorees represent the metro area, Rochester, Duluth and East Grand Forks. The 2015 winners also celebrate diversity, with 13 of 22 honorees of multicultural descent. Applications in the 2015 Minnesota awards program experienced a nearly 35 percent spike over the inaugural year in 2013.

Darartu Gamada – a junior at Breck School and 2014 Minnesota runner-up – was selected as a national level winner through the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Three Minnesota students were selected as national level runners-up, including Ariana Pooley, senior at Wayzata High School; Erin Olson, senior at East Grand Forks Senior High; and Janice Guallpa, senior at Columbia Heights Senior High. They placed in the top 15 percent of approximately 2,500 applicants from across the country.

“I feel extremely honored to have won this national award and I hope it inspires other women of color to become involved in the computing field,” Gamada said. “This recognition may help open doors for me to pursue my goal of changing the inequality that exists in healthcare for people of color and lower socio-economic backgrounds, as I believe medical research in computational and laboratory settings is one way to lower healthcare costs.”

NCWIT created the awards program in 2007 to encourage the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field and generate visibility for women’s participation in computing-related pursuits. Winners from across the state were selected based on their interests, accomplishments and community involvement in computing and technology, as well as for their aspirations in computing and technology-related fields.

State winners will be awarded prizes including tech devices and job shadowing opportunities at Minnesota businesses during an April 21 event hosted at Land O’Lakes, Inc. in Arden Hills. The state winners are:

  • Ariana Poole from Plymouth; senior at Wayzata High School (2015 national runner-up and 2014 Minnesota runner-up)
  • Erin Olson from East Grand Forks; senior at East Grand Forks High School (2015 national runner-up and 2014 Minnesota runner-up)
  • Janice Guallpa from Columbia Heights; senior at Columbia Heights High School (2015 national runner-up)
  • Amelia Rolf from Plymouth; senior at Wayzata High School
  • Anna Mueller from Prior Lake; senior at Prior Lake High School (2014 Minnesota runner-up)
  • Evelyn McChesney from Fridley; junior at Breck School
  • Hasna Ali from Edina; senior at Edina High School
  • Kali Regenold from Rosemount; senior at Rosemount High School
  • Maddy McCue from Plymouth; junior at Breck School
  • Prabhjot Singh from Rochester; senior at John Marshall Senior High School
  • Ruoting Jia from Rochester; senior at Mayo Senior High School

The following Minnesota runners-up will also receive prizes and will be honored during the spring event:

  • Atalanta Stoeke from Apple Valley; freshman at Apple Valley High School
  • Carlita Heard from Eagan; senior at Central High School, St. Paul
  • Elizabeth Ihekoronye from St. Paul; senior at Central High School
  • Katherine Myers from Plymouth; senior at Wayzata High School
  • Katrina Gerhardt from Woodbury; senior at East Ridge High School
  • Leah Abrahams from Duluth; junior at Duluth East High School
  • Maria Fendrich from Rosemount; senior at Rosemount High School
  • Seri Choi from Plymouth; junior at Wayzata High School
  • Tracey Treat from Apple Valley; freshman at Eastview High School
  • Uyen Nhi Dinh from Columbia Heights; senior at Columbia Heights High School

Unique this year, all 69 Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Awards applicants have been invited to participate in the Sustaining Passion, Ambition and Resolve for Career Success (SPARCS) program. Beginning with a launch event on March 21, the program provides an opportunity for the young women to connect with mentors, develop deeper skills and participate in activities led by prominent local women in the technology industry. Start-up funding for SPARCS was provided by MnSCU.

“For three years, the aspirations awards program has been sustained by a passionate and impressive community of partners. Their generous support makes it possible for a growing number of diverse and talented women to become engaged,” said Russell Fraenkel, director of IT career pathways and partnerships at Advance IT Minnesota. “This year, we’re thrilled to offer every award applicant the opportunity to benefit from SPARCS, which will help them develop their skills and confidence, while building relationships with peers and professional women in the field. And, we’re especially proud of the 22 young women who were chosen to receive special recognition.”

Despite holding six in 10 American jobs, women held just 26 percent of computing occupations in 2013. And of the 1.2 million expected openings for computer specialists in 2022, the current number of American graduates can fill only 39 percent. Advance IT Minnesota launched the Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing awards program to help bridge this gender and talent gap, and support, recognize and encourage young women in high school interested in computing and technology.

This year, several major sponsors have contributed generously to provide the awards and SPARCS programs, including Land O’Lakes, Inc., Logic PD, Maverick Software Consulting, SPS Commerce and Symantec. Other sponsors and partners include Best Buy, Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), Cargill, Code42,, ESP IT, General Mills, Girls in Tech – Minneapolis, HelpSystems, Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), Minnesota Computers for Schools, The Nerdery, Pearson, PeopleNet, Securian, TECH{dot}MN, TC Chapter of the Association of Women in Computing, Thomson Reuters, Unisys, Upper Midwest Security Alliance (UMSA), ViaWest, and Women Leading in Technology (WLiT)/Minnesota High Tech Association.

The deadline for 2015 sponsorship is Friday, March 27. For more information about specific opportunities, visit or contact

About Advance IT Minnesota

Advance IT Minnesota engages employers, educators, technology professionals and learners to develop a more robust IT workforce in Minnesota. A Center of Excellence within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, it is hosted at the Metropolitan State University, St. Paul Midway campus. For more information, visit

About National Center for Women & Information Technology

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a coalition of more than 200 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women's participation in information technology (IT). To find out more, visit