Learning To Be Brave, Not Perfect Through Coding

School-age girls in Louisiana build confidence in STEM pursuits at Terrebonne Foundation summer camp
Apr 30, 2024 10:45 AM ET

Computer coding isn’t something that can be done perfectly from the first keystroke to the last.

When you’re working with tens of thousands of characters, it’s inevitable, even for expert coders, that mistakes will be made.

Each summer, a new group of fourth-to-seventh graders attending the Girls Who Code summer camp in Louisiana learn to embrace errors in pursuit of their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) goals.

The act of coding is a fitting metaphor for the camp’s motto—Brave, Not Perfect.

“In coding, you're not going to be perfect; it’s not possible. You're going to have to make mistakes in order to figure out the right set of codes,” explains Ashlee Champagne Barahona, executive director of the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence in Public Education (TFAE), which operates the camp in Houma, a small city 50 miles southwest of New Orleans.

“If you’re brave enough to keep coding, you will become successful because you didn’t give up,” she adds.

Every summer, 30 girls from local schools are selected to attend the week-long camp, which is free for participants. Local schools nominate girls who may not be at the top of their class, but who have interest in STEM subjects and who may have challenges in their home lives.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. every morning, the campers participate in activities and workshops and meet with guest speakers—mostly women—who work in STEM fields.

“The girls are at a very vulnerable age; they’re struggling with becoming their own. Some are scared to even try because they don’t want to fail,” Champagne Barahona reflects. “If you expose them to possibilities, you give them a better future.”

Enbridge recently supported Girls Who Code in Houma with a $2,500 Fueling Futures grant in 2023, the camp’s fifth year of operation.

We want to see a diverse, vibrant and thriving workforce, and we recognize that STEM fields continue to be male-dominated. We are proud to support TFAE in its work to foster the STEM education of young girls with so much potential.

The transformation of each girl from day one to week’s end is “amazing,” Champagne Barahona says. On the first day of camp, they are quiet and reserved, but they leave confident, enthusiastic, and proud of all they have accomplished.

“Being brave is something that doesn't come easy to a lot of people. You have to practice it; you have to work on it,” Champagne Barahona continues.

“The camp motto—Brave, Not Perfect—is something these girls keep with them for the rest of their lives.”