In 2019, Sirihaasa Nallamothu founded a Girls Who Code club chapter at the Normal, Illinois public library, then quickly started another club in the community and inspired similar clubs elsewhere. The 15-year-old’s volunteerism took on even greater significance during the COVID-19 pandemic while she was stuck at home, seeking engaging activities for herself and other youth.
Launching “The Dream Code Project” in June of 2020, a program founded in partnership with the Girls Scouts of Central Illinois, the now rising high school junior is teaching girls across the country how to code. Helping kids to think outside of the box, Sirihaasa has taught more than 250 students thus far as she shares her passion for coding and empowers girls to code towards a better tomorrow.
What inspires you to volunteer?
My passion for computer science inspires me to volunteer. Before I started coding, I never had a creative outlet. The coding environment supports mistakes and the drive to find new things. I like seeing the faces of girls when their code works. That inspires me to keep going.
Describe your volunteerism with The Dream Code Project.
As founder of the program, I teach our online sessions, manage logistics, create the curriculum and assignments, answer participant questions, and recruit program participants. The program is open to any girl across the country, grades 5-9. I wanted to make sure we were empowering the girls to have input on the curriculum, so we give them the opportunity to suggest topics, and then we’ll review those concepts together. I’m not only teaching, but I’m learning as well through this volunteerism.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
Since starting this program, I realized it wasn’t just the girl logging on, but whole families would join the class. This one family told me they were all learning through my classes. Hearing that was super cool because the family spent time going over the curriculum and assignments together, so through service, I was educating the family and also helping to create a family bond. Me and my dad code together a lot, so giving that to another family is really cool to see.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Share with the world what you know and gain the knowledge from the people you teach. That’s why I think everybody should volunteer.
What’s in the future for your volunteerism?
We currently teach all programs virtually and will continue this format, as it’s such a great way to connect with people all over the country. We’re adding in more specialized workshops for participants, and I plan to continue this volunteerism even when I head off to college.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Everybody has something to share and everybody has something to learn. Why not connect those lines and give back to your community? People are willing to learn at any age, and volunteering is a great way to teach people.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
When you’re not busy with school or volunteering, what do you do for fun?
I like coding, but it can get tiring to stare at a screen. It’s pretty fun for me to go on bike rides around the neighborhood.
How can readers help?
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Sirihaasa Nallamothu? Find local volunteer opportunities.