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Mentorship through Coding for 2022 Davis Peace Project

April 20, 2022

While her 2022 Davis Peace Project officially revolves around teaching teenage girls in Angola how to write computer code, there is perhaps an even more powerful goal for Suely S.C. Soeiro.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is getting the girls paired with university students already in the tech field and also with women in Angola that are already working in that type of field,” said Soeiro, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences. “I’m really excited to make that network where each one supports the other one.

Mentorship. Soeiro wants to use computer coding and technology to create mentors for young women in her home country.

“Growing up, you see mostly males going into the tech field and (into) coding. There are very few schools at home that even teach this,” Soeiro said. “Personally, I only learned coding once I went out of my country, when I went to UWC (United World College) I learned some basic stuff. And then, here, one of my minors is scientific computing.”

Soeiro is partnering with Emily Freko, a freshman from Ghana. The two will team together to complete the 17th Davis Peace Project by College of Idaho students since 2008. The two will begin the project in late May and are scheduled to wrap up work approximately six weeks later. The project, titled, “She Codes for Peace – Girl Empowerment through Coding” is about using computer coding to connect young women, in Angola and beyond, so they can learn what is possible. Soeiro and Freko plan to work primarily with teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 18 but will also actively be working with college and professional women in Angola.

“The majority of them (teenaged girls) back home have not had any opportunity to learn coding or to know they could even learn it,” Soeiro said. “For girls, they’re mostly encouraged – if they’re encouraged to study about sciences – it’s related to nursing. They’re pushed to nurturing fields. They’re never empowered into exploring. Simply exploring and seeing what is out there.”

That’s a big part of what drew Freko to the project. Initially, Wangu Mvula was going to participate but had to withdraw due to a professional internship opportunity. The Davis Foundation approved of Freko stepping in to take Mvula’s place.

“I like the idea because it can be seen in other African countries where girls are not encouraged to go into these types of fields,” said Freko, who is also majoring in biomedical sciences and minoring in scientific computing. “I’m excited to visit another African country, I’ve never been to one, and also to help other people because, due to the efforts of other people, that’s why I am here. So maybe doing this will encourage other girls to come into these types of fields.”

Soeiro will graduate in May and plans to attend graduate school. Freko is just starting her journey at the College which she hopes will end with her becoming a doctor. But first, the two will work together to show girls what is possible.

“My intention is not just teaching them how to code, but also teaching them the variety of things they could be doing with coding or just tech in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) world overall,” Soeiro concluded.

The Davis Project for Peace is a national program funded by the Shelby Davis family in honor of Katherine Wasserman Davis. It funds over 100 Peace Projects a year at $10,000 each. The College has had at least one project selected each year since 2008.

2021 Project, Jazmin Nunez Scolari & Mia Maldonado: Paraguay – Preserving and Expanding the Exnet Legacy
2020 Project (1), Welile Simelane: Eswatini - The Sibane Project: Lighting the Way to a Better Future
2020 Project (2), Diane Toussaint Mbahoze: Rwanda - United Against Unplanned Pregnancy and STDs
2019 Project, Anniella Kabitso: Burundi – Bell, Books, and the Clean Light that Lasts
2018 Project, Ferdinand Nyabenda: Burundi - Empowering Girls’ Education through Sanitation
2017 Project, Ahmed Arafat: Palestine - Access to Water: A Matter of Health, Education, and Justice
2016 Project, Saraswati Devray: India - Encouraging Girls to Attend School
2015 Project (1), Unoziba Moyo: Clean Water for Rural Zimbabwe
2015 Project (2), Moha Mudaqiq: Afghanistan - Promoting Education & Saving Lives/Hand-Pump Wells
2014 Project, Margarette Pierre-Louis: Haiti - Water for Peace
2013 Project, Minh “Mark” Bui/Rahul Sharma: India - Bringing Smiles Where They Never Were
2012 Project, Mauricio Santiago/Luis Reyes: Brazil - Peace Me the Ball
2011 Project, Sophie Dresser: Ecuador - The Working Boys Center
2010 Project, Keats Conley/Casey Mattoon: Egypt - The Recycling School
2009 Project, Kaite Justice: Tanzania - Rural Education
2008 Project, Jacob Fulcher/Samatha Fundingsland: Malawi - Fighting Malaria

The College of Idaho has a 130-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.