This past summer, Katie Kasperski, a junior at Mayo High School, was selected to attend the Women in Computer Science (WICS) program at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich.. Kasperski’s parents are both MTU graduates, so when a flier for the Summer Youth Program arrived this spring in the family’s mail, Katie explored the options, submitted an application that included 7 essay questions, and was accepted into WICS, her “top choice.”

Locally, Kasperski has been active in Lego Robotics and prior to this summer’s program had only a “bit” of computer programming experience. On campus she was able to “to block code, design a user interface, and experiment a little in virtual reality programs.”

In addition to the academic experience at MTU, the opportunity also afforded Kasperksi her first chance experiencing residential life.

“We were treated like college students," she said. "We were responsible for getting up and getting to class on time. It was nice to have that level of independence."

But perhaps the most unique opportunity was the all-girl program.

“It was interesting having classes with all girls,"she said. "The dynamics were much different than in mixed-gender classes due to more girls being able to contribute their thoughts and ideas.”

Kasperski loves math and science. With such a positive experience at WICS this year, she is hoping to attend another summer program next year.

“Perhaps I may try to apply to the Women in Engineering Program," she said. Who knows? Beyond the sky is the limit now.”

 Speech proves nerve-wracking, but "neat"

Kaylee Lynn Guetter, a 15-year-old, homeschooled sophomore from Elgin, was one of 17 Minnesota girls selected to participate in the first Speaking Proudly oratory competition. The topic was “‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’ Rising to Benjamin Franklin’s Challenge.”

Held at the State Capitol on Oct. 26, Guetter delivered an 8-minute,  persuasive speech titled, “The People.”

Kaylee, as a homeschooled student, has participated in the Classical Conversations co-op, which gave her some public speaking experience. However, she said the Speaking Proudly event was her first “big” speech, which she spent several weeks researching and writing. Guetter focused on her view that “the biggest threat to our republic is the people.” The essence of her work explored a historical perspective, examining “how the Constitution united people back then” and “taking pride in our history” and connecting our past to our present.

When Guettner was selected to present her speech at the Capitol, she recognized that while the content of her speech got her to the finals, she had less than a month to hone her speaking skills. Fortuitously, a youth leader at Kaylee’s church is also a speech coach and offered to coach her.

On Oct. 26, Kaylee and 4 other participants presented their speeches to a panel of judges. While it was “nerve wracking” to wait for her turn, Guetter said, “It was neat to hear different takes on the same prompt.”

While Kaylee was not one of the top three speakers, she said the experience opened her eyes to politics and government, which she would “definitely like to learn more about.”

Colleen Timimi is a Rochester freelance writer. Seen & Heard highlights local people with interesting stories. Send tips to life@postbulletin.com.

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