They don't fit the traditional stereotype, but New Albany High School senior Hayley Montgomery and junior Katherine Miller are self-professed computer geeks.
"I bounce around in glitter on the football field and can put a hard drive in a computer," Montgomery joked, noting she was captain of the drill team and a member of the Digital Network Assistants (DNA) program. Students in the DNA program spend all summer rebuilding district computers so the new machines are ready for students, teachers and administrators the first day of school.
Miller said her foray into computer technology is more natural. She claims to be a "more traditional nerd" who is on the school's trivia team and whose mother works in information technology.
Both girls are helping get more female students interested in computers, which recently earned them recognition by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).
Miller and Montgomery are two of 10 girls in the sate to receive the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, "which honors young women at the high school level for their computing-related achievements and interests," said teacher David Herman.
The two will receive their awards April 2 at a location yet to be announced. They will receive engraved awards for their homes and school, as well as prizes donated by local sponsors.
This is the first time Ohio has had its own NCWIT award and Montgomery and Miller are the first NAHS students to receive the honor. Award winners must possess "computing and IT aptitude and leadership ability," as well as a good academic history and plans to study a related career in college, Herman said.
Herman said submitted their names for consideration. In addition to detailing their history of working with information technology, the girls completed three essays describing how they have used their knowledge to influence their community.
Montgomery wrote about working in the DNA program each summer for the past three years and rebuilding 4,000 computers.
Miller, who joined the DNA program last summer, also referenced the program.
"It gave me a sense of having a tangible legacy," she said. "There's a sticker on every computer in the district - every computer in the district is now built by a DNA."
The NCWIT is a nonprofit group formed in 2004 that includes more than 250 corporations, academic institutions and government agencies working to increase the participation of girls and women in the fields of computer science and information technology, according to the organization's website. The website also lists several statistics that track the participation of female students in computer-science courses and activities. For example, in 2008, although women earned 57 percent of all the undergraduate degrees in the United States, they earned only 18 percent of all computer and information-sciences undergraduate degrees.
While the NCWIT does say those numbers are rising, Miller and Montgomery said they have seen firsthand evidence.
When she first applied to the DNA program three years ago, Montgomery said, four girls were in the program. Last summer, in her third year of work, about half were girls.
"I think they can be afraid to put themselves out there because it's such a male-dominated field," Miller said. "It's the fear of rejection that keeps you from going after it."
Both girls said they put their fears aside and are glad they did.
"The best advice I can give is that you can't let yourself be afraid that you won't be good enough," Miller said. "They classes are there and the job is there for you."
Montgomery's interest in technology led her to show local senior citizens how to access e-mail as her senior seminar project, which is a requirement for graduation from NAHS.
She wants to combine her love of teaching and technology when she goes to college this fall. She hopes to study to become a technology teacher and said she already has been accepted to two colleges: Marietta College and Ohio Wesleyan University.
Miller, too, hopes to pursue a career involving computer technology. Her experience in a robotics class at NAHS has her interested in studying chemical or mechanical engineering when she applies to colleges next year.
"These are two of New Albany's finest," said Jon Stonebraker, head of New Albany's technology department. "They are beyond amazing in their work ethic and technical competence. They are two young ladies of amazing character."