Computational Cognitive Science students in Calgary’s capital get a break
— CUTTON — An 11th-grade girl from Calgary has become the first computer science student in the country to get a year of free computer science education.
Ruth Tostin was a senior at St. Thomas High School in Calgary.
Students in her class started their computer science course on Aug. 5.
“I feel like it was a dream come true for me,” said Tostins’ mom, Tonia.
Tostin is a math major who hopes to go into the field of computing as a career in the future.
The Calgary-based technology company Microsoft is giving students $2,000 a year to take the course, and the school says it has offered to fund some of her fees.
St. Thomas is one of two computer science programs in the Calgary area, but it is the only one with a full-time curriculum.
As a freshman, Tostini was the only girl in the class who had a computer science background, and she credits her parents for helping her through her freshman year.
She said her parents are still supporting her, but they’re not the only ones.
Her mom, a former software developer, has a computer lab at home, and her dad has a full time job.
For Tostino, the offer from Microsoft to help pay for her courses was a way to keep her focused on her studies.
“It’s not like my mom is going to give me money for free,” she said.
While the free computer classes aren’t a new phenomenon, Toni says she’s only seen it happen once.
In 2012, a 12-year-old girl from the U.K. got a year’s worth of free education thanks to a crowdfunding campaign.
That project, by the online nonprofit Sticky, raised $5 million to provide the school with a year.
That year, the girls computer science program was created.
Students are taught a mix of mathematics and programming in the school’s math and computer science courses.
The program is similar to the programs offered in some other cities, such as Vancouver.
“We’re hoping that in the next few years, it’ll become a staple in the curriculum, so it’s not a surprise that students are interested in it,” said David Dehghan, executive director of Sticky.