When Park Center High School junior Sarah Aladetan was about seven years old, she found one of her dad’s old college textbooks at home.
It was a book about the programming language “BASIC” he’d kept from his lone computer class as a business administration major.
“She read it from front to back,” her father, Prince Aladetan, said.
So began an interest in technology that recently earned Sarah both state and national honors. The Brooklyn Park resident was one of only 35 students in the country named winners of the National Center for Women & Information Technology Aspirations in Computing Award. Nearly 1,800 young women from across the country applied.
In addition, Sarah was selected as one of six winners in the first Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Award for high school students. Her prizes for the competitions include a $1,000 scholarship to a Minnesota state college and a $500 laptop computer.
“It just encourages me,” Sarah said. “And I was already, like, ready to do this with my future, but it just gave me a little more of a push in that directions.”
Strangely, Sarah was only able to apply to the competition because of Superstorm Sandy.
Friends at school told her about the contests after the October application deadline had passed, but because of Sandy, the deadline was extended to early November.
The application required her to write 50-word responses to three questions related to her experience with technology, her leadership at school or in the community and her goals for the future. She had her application endorsed by a parent and a teacher.
When she received an email on her phone saying she’d won the national award, Sarah could hardly believe it. She saw the subject line and went so crazy that her dad could hear her screaming from another room.
“I dropped my phone and started freaking out and didn’t even read the email until I was done freaking out,” she said.
A cousin who was with her at the time had to read the email aloud to her.
Elizabeth Aladetan, Sarah’s mother, said she was surprised her daughter was selected as one of only 35 winners out of 1,800. But at the same time, it made sense.
“She’s very focused,” Elizabeth Aladetan said. “She knows what she wants, and she pursues it.”
Her father agreed, adding that she has always been a detail-oriented perfectionist.
“That is her way of doing it,” he said. “She (does) it well.”
Friends at school responded with comments like, “Wow, that makes sense – you’re such a nerd.”
Sarah’s early experience with computers included programming computer games for friends. She even made her own online version of one of her favorite childhood games, “Neopets.”
Now she focuses mostly on web design, including taking a web design class last year at Park Center.
In addition to technology, Sarah loves music. She plays viola and ukulele and sings in a band.
She hopes to find a career that allows her to combine her passions for music and technology. She’s not yet sure what type of job that will be and may consider a starting her own business after college.
Sarah hopes to major in computer science and minor in music or electrical engineering. She’s considering applying to the University of Minnesota and may also apply to Columbia or MIT.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]