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Coding is a foreign language to many, but one teenager believes it can be a catalyst for change. At just 19, Santa Clarita teen Sofia Ongele has already coded her first app. Now, she’s ready to take on a male dominated industry.

Apple recently announced that Ongele is one of 350 winners of the Swift Student Challenge, which celebrates the next generation of coders.

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“I think that sometimes there’s like a slight shock factor in seeing someone that looks like me in a room that’s a bunch of people that are coding nonstop,” started Ongele, who was scheduled to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off today.

Ongele tells me she wants to make the world a better place and the power is in her keyboard.

“Coding has a really unique ability to be able to impact so many people with just a few keystrokes,” said Ongele, who is home on an extended break from college due to the pandemic.

Ongele describes herself as a hacktivist – in a good way.

“I am really invested in creating apps for social good and teaching underrepresented populations how to code,” said Ongele.

Her first app is called ReDawn. It’s aimed at helping victims of sexual violence.

“I wanted to create an app that allows you to confidentially get advice about the matter and then connect to local resources because at the end of the day those are the people that are able to help you the most,” explained Ongele.

Her interest in coding began in 2016 when she was accepted into Kode With Klossy, a free two-week summer coding camp for girls 13 to 18. It was started by fashion model Karlie Kloss.

“Her mission is really to provide that same spark for young women to learn how to code so they can go on to do anything that they are passionate about and to really equip them with this incredibly important skill,” said Helena Suric, head of partnerships and communications for Kode With Klossy.

Next, it was off to Apple’s prestigious Engineering Technology Camp. Ongele got to spend time on the tech company’s Cupertino campus and learn from their employees.

Sofia was selected for a student scholarship to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this week, but the event is being held virtually due to the pandemic. At the event, Apple reveals new features coming to software for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and more. It’s also where budding coders like Sofia can learn about the latest tools to help them code apps.

“When people think of coding, they think of this guy that hasn’t showered in days… with the hoodie and hacking in the middle of the night,” joked Ongele.

She believes she can help change that image – every time she opens her laptop – and encourages others to do the same.

“Without having a diversity of thought and diversity of opinion, we’re losing on so many incredible inventions and innovations that can impact a lot of people,” concluded Ongele.

Her advice for young students who want to get into coding: find the free camps and programs being offered near you and get involved in building a community of peers as early as possible.

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