Ariel Kachuro/Assistant Photography Editor Michelle Pao, teaching instructor for the Binghamton University chapter of Girls Who Code and a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, speaks after a student presentation at the organization’s first graduation ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

Highlighting the coding achievements of local high schoolers, Binghamton University’s Girls Who Code held its first graduation celebration on Saturday afternoon in the Smart Energy Building at the Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC). The organization hosted a ceremony to award certificates of completion to its high school students for coding their own websites.

BU’s chapter of Girls Who Code was established this academic year by co-founders Kasey J. Hill, a first-year graduate student studying business administration, Caitlin Hall, a senior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering and Fiona Liang, a senior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering.

Looking to give women the support needed to pursue their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and fulfill the founding mission of the organization of empowering women, fostering diversity, acting with integrity and striving for excellence, BU’s chapter teaches girls from local schools in the greater Binghamton area to advance their understanding and ability to code.

Hall, who plans to continue working with the Girls Who Code program as she obtains her master’s degree at BU, said she is excited for the future of the organization.

“It’s turned out better than we expected,” Hall said. “We have 16 girls from six different schools across Broome County — it was very successful for the first round, and we plan on expanding even more and adding classes next semester.”

Hall said she and her co-founders wanted to create an environment for women in STEM fields.

“We really just want to provide that support system for women in engineering and lessen the gender gap,” Hall said.

The ceremony began with an introduction from Hall, Hill and Liang. They were followed by speeches from BU President Harvey Stenger and Mary O’Malley-Trumble, an adviser of the program, the IBM global sales management support leader for IBM Watson Health and the senior location executive for IBM Endicott.

The high school students also had an opportunity to present their projects, explaining the creation of their websites which focused varying topics, including paranormal activity and pet education. Some explained the difficulties they encountered while creating their websites, the different types of coding language they built into them and how they hope to progress their STEM education.

Following the presentations, the members received their certificate of completion, a T-shirt and a gift from the program’s sponsor, Visions Federal Credit Union.

Liang, who has been a part of the Girls Who Code initiative for five years, said she hopes the organization will continue to impact others.

“I think what’s most important to us, especially as the three co-founders, is that this is our way of giving back to the community that gave to us,” Liang said. “We’re super [excited] about the women empowerment movement in STEM, and trying to get girls interested in engineering as well as not being afraid to step out of their comfort zone.”