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Oceanside Girl Scout earns Gold Award teaching girls to code

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To earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, Elana Pocress, 17, taught young girls to code at the Oceanside and Freeport libraries in 2019.

Pocress, who graduates Oceanside High School this month, first joined Girl Scouts in Kindergarten. She now receives Girl Scouts’ highest honor for the 80 hours she dedicated teaching computer science and creating a website with educational resources.

“As the years went by, a lot of my friends dropped [Girl Scouts],” she said, “but I thought it was fun and gave me opportunities to get involved with the community, which I appreciated.”

Pocress became interested in coding and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) when she joined Robotics Club in her freshman year of high school. The all-girls team competed in world champions, and there, she saw how few women were involved in this science.

“It was discouraging to see the lack of women in the tech field,” she said. “So I knew I wanted to introduce it to girls because I know how discouraging it is to not see yourself represented.”

When girls are exposed to STEM at a young age, Pocress said, they could be more likely to pursue other STEM classes in the future. Pocress created her own curriculum based on the book “Girls Who Code.” She taught the basics of coding to groups of 10 to 15 girls at a time. The new coders were usually in third to sixth grade.

After one of her classes, an Oceanside mother told Pocress that she enrolled her daughter in a Robotics program. “That always stuck with me,” Pocress said.

The STEM enthusiast received her Gold Award in March, after completing her service hours. There was supposed to be a ceremony honoring Gold Award recipients at the end of June, however, it was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Pocress and other Nassau County Gold Award recipients will be honored with a car parade at a later date.

Pocress will attend Cornell University in the fall and plans to study something computer science-related, though she is not sure exactly what yet. She’s grateful for the opportunity Girl Scouts gave her to teach others important skills.

“Even though there aren't many that stick with [Girl Scouts] as long as I did, it’s a rewarding experience to grow up with girls from other towns in Girl Scouts,” she said. “It has opened a lot of doors and been a fulfilling experience.”