In April, 31 students from Hermosa Heights Elementary School received graduation certificates and medallions after completing a three-month program called “Girls Who Code,” which allowed them to work with students from New Mexico State University on a weekly basis.

The “Girls Who Code” program was offered to, but not exclusively for, female students at Hermosa Heights Elementary School. Students who participated in the program were in grades 3-5. Students learned about subjects that influence engineering, such as math, science and coding, as well as photography and videography. The “Girls Who Code” program gave students a broader scope for the value of their education, highlighting subjects they are already learning about and correlating them to possible future career opportunities.

“Though educational partnerships like ‘Girls Who Code,’ we are able to inspire our students in ways that go beyond the classroom,” said Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Greg Ewing. “We are grateful for our partners at NMSU, and their shared commitment to education.”

Denise Rodriguez-Strawn is the NMSU Doctoral Programs Coordinator and assistant professor. Rodriguez-Strawn is the founder of a program called Service Learning for Educational Distinction, also known as SLED. She has devoted thirteen years working alongside Bernie Diaz Crawford, a former counselor at Hermosa Heights Elementary, Rodriguez-Strawn and Diaz Crawford played essential roles in helping launch the Girls Who Code program. Rodriguez-Strawn worked with her students from her Educational Leadership class (ELA-350) on concepts that are instrumental to leadership, how to effectively connect those concepts with the community, and most importantly, the students. With the help from students in her leadership class, Rodriguez-Strawn started “Girls Who Code.”

Denise divided her class into three teams: the NMSU Aggie Tutors, who were in charge of tutoring students at Hermosa Elementary; a team created specifically to teach videography with the help of Paris Giles, a web/digital media designer from NMSU; and a team to organize the awards banquet. The students from NMSU consisted of student athletes, students from the Honors College, computer science majors and engineering majors. Rodriguez-Strawn said it was a very special opportunity for her students to connect with students at Hermosa Heights, adding that each student learned something valuable from the others.

“I was really proud of this particular group because they had an understanding of where these young women come from,” Rodriguez-Strawn said. “These are opportunities that each of them wished they had, especially my students of color and my students that come from impoverished areas. Many of us, like myself, come from a school very much like Hermosa. It was that connection that really motivated all of us as a team working on this project, working outside of class, working in class on group workdays. Many of us, being first generation Latinos, coming from these communities, attending these types of schools, were completely invested in wanting to pay it forward.”

The graduation was held on April 24 in the cafeteria at Hermosa Heights. Facilitators included Georgina Acosta, Logan Muxsworthy, Madisyn Asbury, Norma Farrell, Chad Johnson, Elijah Beamon, Lorraine Gallardo, Yesel Carrillo, Kerri Whitt and Oscar Juarez, Jr.

3rd grade graduates:

Cesar Lujan

Brissa Gallegos

Zoei Arias

Alise Eatman

Jasmine Carrera

Yvette Cadena

Mya Serna

Aubry Lynn Medina

Dominque Achulea

Valerie Pena

4th grade graduates:

Natalia Rodriguez

Heavenlie Ramos

Adrianna Vilareal

Airam Richa

Hannah Calderon

Cyndee Soto

Sara Arcos Alvarado

Fatima Carranza

Clarissa Del Rio

Alesandra Loysoya

Oli Acevedo

Paloma Lambert

Layla Valencia

Zayra Montoya

5th grade graduates

Ariya Richard

Mariana Castillo

Ari Clark

Ulani Radtke

Naomie Silvestre

Kenya Rodriguez

Ezekiel Acosta

— Samantha Lewis, LCPS Public Relations Coordinator, 575-527-5946, slewis@lcps.net