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Brewster High School Recognized with 2019 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award

Female students in Ryan Cleary's AP Computer Science Principles course

Brewster High School teacher Ryan Cleary recently received the College Board’s 2019 AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for increasing female representation in AP computer science courses.

Of the 20,000 schools offering AP courses nationwide, only 639 — or 3% — were recognized for closing the gender gap in AP Computer Science Principles. 

“Schools receiving the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award have achieved either a 50% or higher female representation in one or both AP computer science courses or a percentage of female computer science examinees that meets or exceeds that of the school’s female population,” according to the College Board.

Cleary said it has been the school’s goal to bring underrepresented students into computer science courses. “For us, some of that was getting high-achieving girls to take the courses.”

Calculus teachers have done a great job of promoting the courses, but one of the biggest factors just might be the girls themselves.

“I feel we have gotten more female students to enroll because students who have taken the course have done a good job promoting it to their peers,” Cleary said. “Four out of five female students who took the course last year and did not graduate are continuing with their computer science education.”

Cleary said those he spoke with told him they thought the material would be useful in their future careers, a sentiment echoed by female students in this year’s class.

“In today’s world, a lot of things have to do with technology,” said senior Charlie Fitzpatrick. “I figured it would be good to have a basis for it before I go to college because who knows, maybe I’ll want to go into a STEM field.”

Charlie also noted that one girl taking the course can have a domino effect. 

“Once one girl decided to take it, we all talked to each other and thought it would be a good idea,” she said, adding, “Honestly, I didn’t even think of it as a male thing. I thought this is a good skill to have. That’s why I really did it.”

Cleary hopes to continue diversifying the subject area, telling eighth graders in a presentation on high school electives, “There is no traditional computer science student anymore. We welcome everyone.”

For now, he is pleased with the progress that has been made so far.

“I am extremely proud of the work that these girls have done in my computer science classes,” he said.