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Supermodel Karlie Kloss' coding camp for girls is expanding

Kode With Klossy, a program the model launched in 2015 to encourage girls to learn to code, will now host 50 camps in 25 cities.

Karlie Kloss and friends

Karlie Kloss, second from left, launched Kode With Klossy in 2015 to encourage girls to learn how to code.

Kode With Klossy

A staple in top fashion magazines and runways, 25-year-old supermodel Karlie Kloss made a name for herself in the tech world when she launched Kode With Klossy in 2015, a program that hosts free, two-week summer coding camps for girls ages 13 to 18 years old.

Kloss' own journey with coding began four years ago, when she took her first coding class at the Flatiron School in New York and learned the basics of Ruby on Rails. A year later, she began offering scholarships for girls to take a coding course at the school before launching her own coding camps in in New York, Los Angeles and Kloss' hometown of St. Louis. 

On Friday, Kode With Klossy announced that it's more than tripling its reach by starting 50 coding camps in 25 US cities, teaching 1,000 girls to code. The program is also partnering with Teach For America to recruit and hire the camp's 50 instructors.

Kode With Klossy students learn the basics of programming languages including Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and Swift. By the end of the camp, they build fully functional mobile apps or websites.

Initiatives such as Kode With Klossy are vital as the tech industry struggles to boost female representation and gender equality. Women make up an average of just 30 percent of workers in tech, and the sector has been under fire for years for its relative lack of women in leadership roles. A HackerRank survey earlier this month found that female software developers older than 35 are three and a half times more likely to hold junior positions, despite being just as capable as their male peers. Additionally, only 26 percent of people working in computing in 2016 were women, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. 

Kloss shared insights via email about the importance of encouraging women to pursue careers in tech, what Kode With Klossy scholars have gained from the camps and her own journey with coding.

Q: What got you interested in coding?
Kloss: I was always interested in math and science growing up and, before I began modeling, I actually thought I would follow in my dad's footsteps and become a doctor. Even though my career took me down a different path, that curiosity stayed with me.

Then, as my career in fashion progressed, I started to see how technology was transforming my own industry — from wearable tech to 3D photo shoots to drones making appearances at runway shows. I took my first coding class because I wanted to understand the technology behind these innovations.

What was your goal when you started Kode With Klossy?
When I took my first coding class, I quickly realized how code was this language that could be applied in powerful and creative ways. I wanted to share what I had learned with others, which was the spark for Kode With Klossy.

We started small in our first year, offering scholarships to 21 young women and girls. I thought that if I could help even a couple girls gain access to this skill and unlock its potential, I would have achieved my goal.

Now we're working to close the gender gap in tech by increasing access to computer science education for women and inspiring them to want to learn code. Too few girls are encouraged to pursue STEM at an early age, so we set out to provide more opportunities to learn code and change the way it's taught -- by making it fun, collaborative and creative.

As technology becomes more relevant in our lives, it is critical women are equipped with the skills to have an impact on our future, and that starts with engaging education. 

Girls learning to write software code through Kode With Klossy

This year, Kode With Klossy will teach 1,000 girls to code.

Kode With Klossy

What do students gain from learning how to code? What do you hope girls get out of the experience?
There is so much more to Kode With Klossy than teaching the technical skills. The girls apply their learning to creative projects that are meaningful to them, whether that's in fashion, music, social activism, environmentalism or sports. Even if they don't choose careers in the tech world, our goal is to show them that code can be applied to whatever it is they're passionate about.

In addition to the technical learning, the scholars also come out of the program with new friends and mentors, which has proved to be invaluable. A community has emerged out of Kode With Klossy that continues to evolve. It has been absolutely amazing to see.

Has your knowledge of coding been helpful in the fashion world, or in other aspects of your life?
Knowing how to code is not only helpful for building an app, but for building a broader tech literacy, which comes into play in my own career. I feel more informed when working with brand partners and developing new projects, because there's always a layer of technology involved.  In many ways, studying code has given me the tools to be a smarter businesswoman, even if I'm not the one coding the final product.

Are there any inspiring stories you've heard coming from Kode With Klossy participants?
The Kode With Klossy scholars inspire me every day. They've gone on to compete in major hackathons, start their own coding clubs and classes in their communities, and get accepted to top colleges to continue studying computer science.

There are countless stories, but one thing that's been really cool to see is all the projects related to activism. We've had scholars build apps that help people who are homeless, locate gender-neutral public bathrooms, treat and diagnose ADHD, and track legislation in Congress, so you know exactly where a bill is at any given time.

What do you hope comes out of the coding camp's expansion?
Our goal is to increase our reach, not only through more camps and more cities, but by connecting with both scholars and instructors. This year, we are working with Teach For America to find passionate instructors who will not only lead the camps, but take what they've learned from the Kode With Klossy curriculum and bring it back to their classrooms. That way, we'll be able to make an impact long after the camps are over.

What goes into selecting locations for the camp?
We want to reach girls who wouldn't otherwise have access to this type of education. We've expanded our program drastically so we're reaching people throughout the country -- not just in coastal cities. This year, we're providing camps in 25 cities across the country, including 13 new locations.

Kode With Klossy

By the end of the coding camp, students build fully functional mobile apps or websites.  

Kode With Klossy

Why was it important to partner with Teach For America for this expansion?
Working with Teach For America and evolving our instructor training are major components of how we are going to scale our impact. Only 40 percent of schools offer computer science education, and in order to increase that number, we need more teachers to receive adequate training so they're able to teach it effectively.

Through the Teach For America partnership, we are hoping to empower teachers with the skills and resources they need to take this education back to their communities.

Going forward, how do you hope to see Kode With Klossy expand?
We will continue to grow in new locations, expand our curriculum and course offerings, and work with instructors to make an impact long after the camps are over. Our focus is on expanding this education as far and as wide as we can, so women are empowered to become leaders in STEM.

We envision a future where there is no gender gap in tech, and will continue to do our part to make that vision a reality. 

The deadline for applications is April 15. 

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