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Working on the CO.LAB initiative has been the most rewarding project of my career. So far, we've been to 4 cities and have taught nearly 100 middle school girls in underserved areas how to code their very own Raspberry Pi computers into digital cameras. But it's more than just coding.

It's about collaboration—the students are taught the values of open source and work together and help each other. They share knowledge, ideas, and encourage each other throughout their shared new experience. These are skills that can impact how they learn, work, and connect today as well as into their futures.

It's about empowerment—women in technical fields from all over Red Hat mentor the students throughout the 2 days, and women from local universities and nonprofits talk about the power of education and women in technology fields.

Most recently we invited 6 girls (and their collective chaperones of moms and teachers) from our East Coast tour (Astoria, NY, Washington, DC, and Raleigh, NC) to our annual customer conference, Red Hat Summit, in San Francisco. For some of the students it was their first time on a plane, or their first time to the West Coast. And it was just as much an experience for them as it was for all of us adults.

This time we flipped the script—it was their turn to be the teachers and mentors. They taught 2 Raspberry Pi camera workshops to Summit attendees and answered questions to attendees visiting the Open Source Stories booth.

They were also on the main stage during Tim Yeaton and DeLisa Alexander's keynote talking about the importance and impact of open source.

One of my roles was to document the CO.LAB experience at Summit so I was along for the big moments and the small wins. I was with them as they prepped for their first workshop session, and I was there once all the Summit attendees left the room and they all cheered and gathered for a group hug (I got caught up in the moment and missed the photo, sorry!). I was also with them backstage as they fought back nerves and encouraged together, and I was in the audience sitting alongside their visibly proud moms and teachers while they were on stage in front of an audience of thousands.

Seeing the excitement and pride on the students' faces as they became the teachers, the presenters, and new city explorers was rewarding not just for me personally but for Red Hatters, the students' parents and teachers, as well as Summit attendees.

I'm excited for more CO.LAB initiatives, working with more students in more cities, keeping in touch with CO.LAB alumni, and also seeing where these 6 girls end up. With any luck, we'll have them as Red Hat interns in a few years.


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