Last August, over 40 GSBA Scholars boarded a ferry to Bainbridge Island and met at IslandWood learning center for GSBA’s second annual Leadership Academy Immersion Weekend. Among them, was first-year GSBA Scholar and Cascadia College student Mei’lani Eyre.
Even though they had achieved their Associates of Applied Sciences degree earlier last year, Mei’lani always struggled with a bit of imposter syndrome when it came to their academic accolades.
“GSBA really helped me with knowing my worth,” said Mei’lani. “Whenever I’ve gotten some sort of recognition in the past, I would feel like, ‘You don’t deserve it. You’re a fraud and it’s just a matter of time before they find out.”
Then, Mei’lani spent time with their fellow GSBA scholars.
“When I got to the retreat, all that really started to dissipate,” they said. “There was so much acknowledgement from other students and they helped me understand that I did deserve it all. There have been similar academic groups I’ve been in where people aren’t very supportive of each other and try to tear each other down. But (with GSBA) it was really nice to see this perfect fit where everyone is actually happy for your success and doesn’t see you as a competitor.”
Mei’lani’s accomplishments as a student extend far beyond being a GSBA scholar. As a running-start student, Mei’lani carried several different STEM-based internships, including working as an Education Intern and Curriculum Development Intern with Code.org, a Cloud and Enterprise Intern with Microsoft, various roles with the King County Library System, and also a campus ambassador with GLAAD.
Currently, Mei’lani is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Applied Sciences in Mobile Application Development and works two jobs, one as a program coordinator for the Mobile Application Department at Cascadia and another as a design lead at UW Bothell’s Digital Future Lab. This summer, Mei’lani will intern with GitHub as a Student Programs intern. After they graduate in June of 2020, Mei’lani plans to pursue a career in computer science education.
“A lot of the experiences I’ve had have been very relevant to (computer science education),” said Mei’lani. “Even now with being a program coordinator at my school, I’m often thinking about what will be the most beneficial for student learning. One of the things I’m really excited about by working with GitHub, is I’m going to be working with schools that are often overlooked because they might not be as prestigious. It’s not enough to just say to students, ‘Well we have those resources available for kids who want them.’ You have to make sure you’re doing outreach to specifically under-represented groups and that you’re getting our youth the skills they need in order to succeed in the world and get better jobs.”
For Mei’lani, they see many intersectionalities between computer science education and social justice. As a queer person of color in the tech industry, they hope that they can use their voice to encourage other students from marginalized backgrounds to explore careers in STEM, as well as to advocate for companies to hire talent from under-represented communities, and for schools to work towards achieving greater equity within the tech field.
“(Being in this field) can definitely be pretty lonely,” they said. “There’s definitely times where I feel very alienated. I was already kind of used to that from having grown up in a pretty white area and often being the only person of color in the room. But even more so, when you’re female-presenting, there are often a lot of assumptions made about you.”
While Mei’lani’s coworkers in the Digital Future Lab respect their pronouns and immediately correct themselves if they accidentally misgender them, Mei’lani is still working on asserting themselves in other spaces.
“I haven’t gotten that comfortable yet at school. I’m still getting used to advocating for myself and who I am,” they said.
The 2019 GSBA Scholar’s Dinner on Friday, May 17 will be Mei’lani’s final dinner as a scholar before graduating next spring. After achieving their bachelor’s degree, Mei’lani would eventually like to return to school to study librarian sciences. They expect to return as a volunteer and supporter of the GSBA Scholarship in following years.
“I’m really looking forward to supporting the next scholars that come through, because I know how much this has meant to me and that it’s going to mean just as much for someone else,” they said. “I want to be a connection for anyone in the scholarship program in tech specifically. I’m really excited about being on the other end of things where I’m supporting students.”
Join GSBA as we celebrate Mei’lani and their 49 fellow GSBA Scholars during the 2019 GSBA Scholar’s Dinner on Friday, May 17 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott.