Growing up, Yashila was fascinated with digital devices and eventually discovered computer science
By Kelly Barbazette
Yashila Suresh is inspiring our community’s youths to learn about one of her passions — computer science and programming. She’s doing it through coding classes she started.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting virtually with Yashila, a junior at Christopher High School.
While tutoring at Ciel Community Services in downtown Gilroy her freshman year, the 16-year-old native Gilroyan said that she noticed many students were interested in computer science.
“I thought of the idea to teach a free beginner computer coding class,” she said. Her time spent teaching the Girls Who Code classes at the Gilroy Library sparked her idea.
“I realized it was such a great class. These skills are so important for students to learn,” she said.
Growing up, Yashila was fascinated with computers, exploring how these machines and other electronic devices worked, and eventually discovered computer science.
“They’re just building blocks, a language like Spanish or French,” Yashila explained of the coding language used to program computers. “It’s something that challenges me and pushes me. I never get tired of it.”
With the help of a local company that offered free computers, Yashila started a free coding class at Ciel Community Services during her freshman year. Ciel Community Services is a non-profit group that offers social space and a learning center for area youths.
Since then, classes, held in six-week sessions, have been offered in the fall and spring each year, with the class transitioning to online during spring 2020.
The classes are open to any student. Flyers posted on social media and sent to area schools heralded between eight and ten students between second grade and middle school for each session.
“It’s amazing how much you can make an impact on impressionable minds,” she said. “These kids don’t know how to start. I’m happy to lead them … If they decide that computer science is something they like, that’s really amazing.”
Yashila credits her own teachers and advisors for nurturing her interest in computer science. She wants to give thanks to four people in particular: Diane Carini, Ciel Services director, who helped provide Yashila the foundation to kickstart the coding class; David Salles, CHS chemistry teacher and advisor for the Future Health Professionals Club, who supported Yashila with building the club and providing advice; Gretchen Yoder-Schrock, ASB director at CHS, who Yashila said has always supported her; and Donya Maiorino, Yashila’s school counselor, who has provided her with support and opportunities to excel both in the classroom and outside of it.
While Yashila loves computer programming, she has developed a new interest in the health field after she had her tonsils removed in 2018. She talked to her anesthesiologist while she was in the hospital. Soon after, she began researching everything she could find about medicine and all of the different professions within the field.
“I noticed that there’s a huge population of students interested in pursuing medicine but no path to do so,” she said.
Yashila’s solution was to start a Future Health Professionals Club at Christopher High School this school year. Co-founded with her chemistry teacher, the club is one of the fastest growing ones on campus. More than 100 students are members.
While the club met virtually, Yashila didn’t let that limit her bringing as many resources as she could to students. She contacted Bay Area doctors, including from the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University, inviting them to talk to students about their daily professional lives and offer any advice.
In March, six doctors practicing psychiatry and psychology from UCSF led a discussion.
“Hearing about their perspective and their everyday lives and hearing such heavy topics, it was such an eye-opening experience and I think my peers enjoyed it as well,” she said.
In her free time, Yashila enjoys playing tennis for Christopher’s varsity team, playing the piano, reading, and writing. Last summer, she launched a website called The Monday Report. It’s located at themondayrep.com.
“It’s just something to explore my own interest in journalism and to spread awareness about the world’s most pressing issues.” She recently wrote about such topics as criminal justice reform, gun control, and the coup in Myanmar.
Yashila has a younger sister and two dogs, one-year-old Australian Labradoodles.
Asked what advice she would give to other young women who are trying to reach their goals, Yashila said to not see their age as a limitation.
“If you have a passion and a motivation, you can do whatever you can to pursue that. You shouldn’t factor in what other people think. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. No one knows more what you want to do than yourself.”
Yashila said thinking about her future studying — and eventually practicing — medicine motivates her.
“I’m going to be on this planet for quite a bit of time. I want to do something that excites me and sustains me.”
Kelly Barbazette, a former journalist for Bay Area newspapers, is a freelance writer. She lives in Gilroy with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at [email protected]
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