Monday, March 10, 2014

Bemley Scholar Mira Cruz Seeks Computer Science Degree from University of Maryland

Mira Cruz earned two silver medals and a bronze medal as a member of the High School Computer Competition (HSCC) teams trained by BDPA Washington DC in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 HSCC championships. She will use the Dr. Jesse Bemley Scholarships that she earned as a result of those high HSCC championships to study for a computer science degree at the University of Maryland University College.

We asked Mira to share her thoughts on the HSCC experiences:

All throughout my life, I've had an interest in technology. I started out playing video games, and it sparked an interest in me for wanting to create video games. That eventually led me to the fascinating world of programming.
As my interest in programming grew, I started to become more curious about computers in general. When I became enrolled at North County High School, I took immediate action and signed up for a computer class. Although there were no classes on coding, I was determined to learn it anyway.

For a short time - due to the hassles of high school - my technology drive was dulled. The revival came after I switched over to Penn Foster High School. Shortly afterward, my mother found out about BDPA, which led me to entering into a Flash Animation Course. In the course, we were being taught ActionScript and flash game development. It was through this course that I was introduced to Mr. Louis Shack, an instructor for the BDPA computer camp in Washington, DC. Mr. Shack brought me into the world of the high school computer competition. I am so grateful to him for introducing me to this program. BDPA has been a great and positive impact on my life.
When I first entered into the HSCC, I didn't know what to expect. Previously, I'd had to learn programming myself - by online tutorials and long manuals. I was thrilled to have teachers always available to help me. I settled in with my classmates very quickly. All of them were just like me - they had a passion for programming, and they weren't afraid to show it. I was amazed at the great level of maturity.

As the months of our training passed, I discovered an entirely new world of coding. We were taught Javascript, JSTL, SQL, and how to use Apache Tomcat; and how to incorporate all of them together into a website. I won't lie - we had to study hard. But at the same time, it was fun doing something I really enjoyed. I knew that I was doing what I could to help my team, and whenever I needed help or didn't understand something, my teachers and classmates were there to help me.

All of our efforts were rewarded when our team earned the silver medal for our second place finish at the National HSCC championship in 2008. I'll never forget how I felt when I went up on stage with my teammates to claim our trophy. Second place in the nation! All of our hard work was worth it! But even if we hadn't won anything, it still would have been worth it. The things I'd learned and the friendships I'd made were what made the experience so wonderful.

2008 HSCC Team (Washington DC)
I came back and competed again in 2009 (3rd place) and 2010 (second place) as a member of the BDPA Washington DC teams competing in the national HSCC championships. When I look back on how much I've learned, it's astonishing. BDPA has helped me with so much, not only in my knowledge of coding, but also in life-long lessons. Before joining BDPA and participating in the HSCC program, I could hardly communicate with anyone. I had been so afraid of people and the thought of a quick conversation could literally make me want to crawl into a hole. Over time, because of my work in the HSCC program, I became so confident and social that anyone who sees me today would wonder where the old Mira went. I don't know if it ever would have happened if not for the great teamwork and attitudes of my classmates and teachers.

The HSCC was a great thing for me, and I know it will be great for anyone else who aspires to program. It had an amazing impact on my life.

I am currently admitted into University of Maryland University College for a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science. My goal is to become a software programmer. I am very much looking forward to it!

Mira is a real-like example of the 'classroom to the boardroom' motto of BDPA. We want to give our larger college scholarships to students like Mira in the future ... and you can help by making a secure online donation to our Dr. Jesse Bemley Scholarship Fund!
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