Sparking passion in computer science through undergraduate mentoring

For a number of years, I thought I would become a rabbi. I loved the idea of merging my interests in creative writing, philosophy and parsing texts with social engagement and counseling. But as an interracial Jewish woman, I struggled with how to pursue that path. It was painfully clear that I looked so different than others around me and it eventually became too difficult for me to ignore. I decided not to pursue rabbinical school, and I left the Jewish nonprofit world. When I thought about what made the rabbinate so appealing to me was, I realized that what I really wanted to do was help people.

Many people want to use their knowledge, skills, and interests to help others. With that in mind, this week, we are introducing a new opportunity called igniteCS.

The goal of igniteCS is twofold. First, we want to encourage undergraduate students who have an interest in computer science, diversity, and helping others to apply what they’re learning in the classroom through mentoring. We provide funding, resources, and support while student groups develop a program, find a faculty advisor, and take it into their local community. Here’s how it works:
The second goal for igniteCS is to provide a space or those undergraduate students who may be feeling discouraged on their own journeys to experience community, build confidence and create a mentoring program they can feel positive about. I can’t help but think that if I had a similar program to help me through my struggles as a person of color interested in rabbinical school, maybe I would have persevered.

We piloted igniteCS last spring with ten ACM-W chapters in the US and one in Puerto Rico. We received such positive feedback that we are now opening up the application process to groups of students in all US higher education schools, provided they have a faculty advisor and at least one student involved in a women in computer science student group.
igniteCS participants Haley Adams and Keely Hicks check out apps created by their mentees at Rhodes College
Applications are now open through January 22, 2016. Before applying, you can check out the eligibility requirements, guidelines and what to expect from the application on our website at You will also find a calendar for our Hangout On Air sessions to help you create a solid program, ask any questions you may have, and feel confident in applying. We are excited to help you help others, as you ignite passion for computer science in younger generations!