Karlie Kloss has been at the forefront of championing young women's involvement in tech since she started her coding camps, Kode with Klossy in 2015. Now, she's more excited than ever to celebrate Computer Science Education Week by sharing the positive impact coding has on young women — and singing the praises of all those students who are doing big things with their newly-found skills.
Out of the 8,000 students who've taken part in Kode with Klossy camps, many have expanded their coding abilities and have gone on to win Apple's Swift Student Challenge by excelling in their coding and problem-solving skills.
"It makes me like a proud big sister," Kloss tells PEOPLE of the winners. "I feel so inspired by our community of scholars. It makes me so proud to see our scholars who won this award and their maturity and awareness of the power that they individually and collectively have to really create the change that they want to see in the world."
As for what they'll accomplish next, Kloss says she's "so excited."
"Especially as our world continues to be transformed by technology, it's vital that we have people of all walks of life, of all ages, of all genders participating in the creation of this technology, because it touches all of us," she says. "It makes me so proud to see their accomplishments today, but so excited to know the impact they will continue to have in the years to come."
Representation is a major hallmark of Kode with Klossy and breaking down barriers to access is something Kloss is especially passionate about.
"A lot of our scholars often might be one of the few young women in the classroom if they've even had the opportunity at all at their school to take a class. And that can be really discouraging." she say. "I really try and help these young women realize that they have infinite potential and that they truly not only deserve to be in this space and be leaders in this industry, but we're relying on them to be the thought leaders of tomorrow."
Two such students who felt that there might not be a space for them in the coding world are high school junior Etasha Donthi and senior Maya Dummett, both from New Jersey.
Before joining Kloss' camps, they didn't see themselves represented in the tech space. Now they're both Swift Student Challenge winners.
"Quite frankly, I never saw myself as someone who could pursue a STEM career simply based on not seeing people who looked like me in the media," Donthi tells PEOPLE. "Kode With Klossy really did open my eyes up to that opportunity of being a woman in STEM. I truly met so many like-minded, amazing girls who are honestly the future, and having this inclusive environment really transformed my own perception of my own abilities and my confidence."
Dummett echoed similar sentiments, saying she "struggled" to see herself reflected in the field of STEM before joining Kode with Klossy. But both have applied what they have learned in the computer science field towards social justice.
Dummett has worked on creating apps to improve social welfare services and created a chatbot called "M" who encourages others to pursue STEM. Meanwhile Donthi has focused on creating a space where environmental activists can engage with other social justice activists, as well as her own organization that supports underprivileged kids in STEM.
Apple Maya Dummett and Etasha Donthi
Donthi says hearing that Kloss is proud of her accomplishments "means the world."
"Knowing that Karlie has our backs and is supporting us all the way through the ups and the downs, it makes me want to do the same for others, be that big sister for others," says Donthi. "I started She the Change, a podcast dedicated to highlighting women and non-binary leaders who are paving the way for change and especially breaking the gender gap. Not only to encourage my listeners to follow in their lead and also take inspiration from them, but also to gain their own confidence, the confidence that I found from Karlie through being a part of Kode with Klossy."
For Dummett, she says joining the coding camps was the first time she "felt like someone really believed" in her when it came to computer science. "She's given me the confidence in my own skill."
Now, Dummett is a Kode with Klossy campus workshop facilitator. "There's just something so special about seeing [students'] faces light up when learning these concepts, and I can all bring it back to Karlie Kloss and her believing in me for the first time."
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For those who are inspired to get into coding, both students recommend starting with Apple's Swifts Playground app. Other programs Apple has at-the-ready for beginning coders include the PDF, the Inclusive App Design activity and the PDF, the Quick Start to Code guide designed for parents, caregivers, guardians or educators to navigate puzzles in the Swift Playgrounds app.
And for teachers, Kode with Klossy opened its Summer 2022 instructor applications to coincide with Computer Science Education Week.
For all those ready to roll up their sleeves and start to code, Kloss says she always gives student this piece of advice: "You have infinite potential, and I want you to realize that."
"With the right access to skills and a supportive community and continuing to support them and connect them the opportunity, they have infinite potential," Kloss says. "The only one who can limit that is themselves, and I try to really help them realize that they can do anything they set their mind to. And also not to be limited by titles or other people's expectations of you."