HomeSchools & YouthA Rising Star On the Track, Trail and In the Classroom

A Rising Star On the Track, Trail and In the Classroom

EXPLORING NEW FRONTIERS: San Marino High School’s Girls Who Code club recently toured JPL, where they were able to see the Mars 2020 build in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility. PICTURED ABOVE, left to right, are Valentina Liu, Nolan Yee, Kirsten Go, Sue Ni, Wendy Kaw, club President Puja Balaji, Seojin Choi, Ingrid Teng, Ellen Yim and Colin Mach.

The fascinating pursuit of computer coding and a nationwide effort to include more females in STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics] education have come together at San Marino High School, where the “Girls Who Code” club has steadily grown in popularity since its inception.

Jamie Linton, who teaches Calculus, Math Analysis and Algebra 1 at SMHS, has served as the club’s facilitator the last four years and has seen the effect it has on the student body from multiple perspectives. Linton credits junior Puja Balaji, the president of Girls Who Code, with special outreach efforts which have spread the club’s influence to the four corners of the campus, and beyond.

“Girls Who Code has created some interesting opportunities this year,” Linton told The Tribune. “We toured JPL in February and have brought in some excellent guest speakers. Two mentors of Girls Who Code—Michael Starch and Lan Dang—work at JPL, and every year they arrange an opportunity for the kids to visit and take a tour. Those two have been very generous with their time. But my favorite thing that Puja has worked on is a partnership with our special education class, where our club members go and teach coding to the students. There are some very special young people here at San Marino High School and Puja is certainly among them.”

Aside from her exploits in Girls Who Code and in the classroom, Balaji is an accomplished runner, starring on San Marino High School’s cross country and track teams. In the first track meet of the season, Bulaji won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs. Yes, all three races are held on the same day, actually within just a few minutes of one another. She is apparently as comfortable in the coding environment as she is on a long training run. 

“Girls Who Code is such an amazing and impactful club that seeks to eliminate the gender gap in technology by getting young women interested in the field early on,” Bulaji told The Tribune. “After being one of four girls in my computer science class in high school and enduring sexist comments elsewhere, I found Girls Who Code to be a great place to explore coding with a group of people who love doing the same thing.”

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