The College Board awarded Fountain Valley High School with the Female Diversity Award in January for providing extensive access to Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles. FVHS Principal Paul Lopez received the letter that notified him of the award in March. FVHS earned this award “for expanding young women’s access to AP Computer Science Principles for the 2020-21 school year,” according to the letter.
Nobody from FVHS applied in order to earn this award; the College Board likely looked at the number of students testing and who was enrolled in the course. AP CSP teacher Ryan Pham mentioned that his class consisted of 29 males but only seven females in the 2017-2018 school year. However, in both the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, there were 38 males and 23 females in his class.
“I feel like it’s a pretty even split between girls and guys in my class,” said senior and AP Computer Science student Muna Naseer.
The FVHS computer science program as a whole expanded in recent years in response to students’ requests for access to the course.
“We went from 1 to 3 AP CSP classes,” Pham said. “Cathy Lichodziejewski and Nancy Peterson were instrumental in creating this academic STEM college/career class opportunity at FVHS.”
The College Board emphasizes the importance of giving young women the opportunity to learn AP Computer Science Principles because this education builds a solid foundation to lead them into a STEM-related career in the future.
“Research shows that female students who take AP computer science are more likely to major in computer science in college compared to female students of similar background and academic preparation who did not take AP computer science courses,” the College Board wrote in the letter to Lopez.
In fact, Naseer plans to major in computer science and hopes to become a doctor with a background in technology. She expressed that as society advances technologically, a background in computer science would be quite beneficial to her career.
Her experience in AP Computer Science has provided her with an environment to grow from interactions with classmates.
“Going to computer science every day, we get to meet so many new people in the class, and we get to learn about different people’s histories — what they want to be doing for computer science,” said Naseer. “Being around them is just inspiring, and it helps stem creativity.”
This recognition honors a push to close the gender equity gap in the field of computer science, but it also reflects a wider goal to promote diversity at FVHS.
“As far as inclusion goes, we want all students to be able to access all of our AP courses…But I think we need to be more intentional about it still. So we need to do a little more outreach as far as getting women in the field of STEM,” Lopez said.
Lopez commented that FVHS could still work on increasing diversity in every other subject on campus, wanting to ensure accessibility for all students in all areas. While the school already offers a great number of courses to students of many backgrounds and identities, there will always be space to make a change.
“I feel like there isn’t something that should just be male or female — if a person wants to do it, then they should be able to do it. So seeing so many women go into more STEM-related areas, while it is dominated by men is really inspiring because it’s something that isn’t really seen, and it inspires more people to do so,” Naseer said.