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PA Cyber student wins NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award

PITTSBURGH, April 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Participation of women in the computing field has diminished by half since the 1990s. Bucking that trend are outstanding students like Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz, 16, of Wexford, Pa., and her school, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.

Calista, a PA Cyber student since kindergarten, is one of 35 young women in the U.S. to receive the 2013 Award for Aspirations in Computing from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT.)  The national award was presented March 9 during an expenses-paid weekend event at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, N.C., hosted by Bank of America.

Today, Saturday, April 13, Calista will be recognized as NCWIT presents awards to regional winners at the William Pitt union ballroom, University of Pittsburgh.

Among those attending Saturday's ceremony will be Ruthe A. Farmer, director of strategic initiatives for NCWIT, and the person who expanded the organization's scope from recognizing 30 young women a year to more than 1,000 nationwide.

"Women are very under-represented in computing careers, declining from 37 percent in the 1990s down to 18 percent," Farmer said. The dot-com bubble, which made computing careers appear high-risk to students, and stereotypes of men as computer geeks are among reasons for the decline, she believes.

"There's no shortage of smart girls that can do math, but those girls are choosing to do other rigorous occupations like law or medicine where there is less gender disparity and fewer cultural issues," said Farmer.

The purpose of the NCWIT awards program is to identify high-potential young women like Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz who have an interest in computer science, introduce them to like-minded peers, and provide a support mechanism to guide them into college and a career, Farmer said.

After observing Calista at the NCWIT national awards weekend in Charlotte, Farmer said, "She is a natural leader, you could tell. A bit of a spitfire with a very large personality."

Farmer realized she had met Calista before, at the 2010 Intel Education Visionary Conference in Washington, D.C., where she appeared as the performing student pianist on stage taking a distance  lesson from a composer located in California. Calista connected and configured both the computer software and the Yamaha Disklavier's piano settings for the demonstration.

Her parents, Cynde Frederick and Dr. David Jaskiewicz of Wexford, enrolled Calista as a kindergarten student in the PA Cyber Charter School in 2001, the online school's second year of existence.

According to her mother, the PA Cyber learning environment enables Calista to meet her potential both as a student and as a person.

About Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz

Receiving the NCWIT Award is only one of many honors and achievements earned by Calista.

Calista is a Nestle Very Best in Youth 2013 National Finalist, Prudential Spirit of America 2013 Distinguished Finalist, and a 2013 recipient of the gold President's Volunteer Service Award. She is a Davidson Institute Young Scholar Ambassador and Teen Mensan.

She is a third-year participant in the NASA INSPIRE Online Community and an avid follower of NASA news. On August 5, 2012, she attended the NASA Curiosity Landing festivities at Ames Research Center in Mountainview, Calif.

Calista was a team member on the FIRST FRC robotics rookie team "Girls of Steel" in 2011 in Pittsburgh, and served as a volunteer referee at regional  FIRST Tech Challenge competitions at Robert Morris University in 2012 and 2013.

Calista is the founder and CEO of Origami Salami, through which she advocates for STEM through origami, the ancient art of paper folding.  She leads 12 student Origami Salami chapters in the United States, Australia, and the Philippines who "Inspire the world to fold for food."

Folding for Good is Calista's community service spin-off organization. Her ongoing Folding for Good project, called "Operation Sandy Hook: Peace to You" continues to engage folders from around the world - from 13 countries and growing - who have joined together to fold origami peace cranes for the Sandy Hook School community. Schoolchildren from Muskogee, Okla., and Jonesborough, Tenn., to Shantalla, Ireland; Budapest, Hungary; and South Africa, have folded and sent in cranes. Adults and professional origamists have also sent in cranes.

To date the peace crane count stands at 8,425. An exhibit about the project is in the planning stages at the Carnegie Science Center, with tentative launch in October.

Calista authored an online course called "Investigation: Paper Engineering" in 2011 for cyber curriculum provider Lincoln Interactive.

She invites people to visit her website, www.OrigamiSalami.com, "like" her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OrigamiSalami1, follow her on Twitter @OrigamiSalami1 #OperationSandyHook, and visit her blog on STEMplanet.org.

Calista is a third degree black belt in taekwondo, and an accomplished pianist, violist and figure skater. She fences on the Pine-Richland High School team.

At age 12, Calista began taking college classes on campus at LaRoche College, earning 12 credits in courses such as Arabic language. She earned another dozen college credits through the University of Nevada in 2011 and 2012 at Davidson THINK Summer Institute. Beginning in 2011, she earned more credits at Robert Morris University, where her current favorite class is Circuits and Electromagnetism.

By the end of the current semester, Calista will have earned 77 college credits, all as a dual enrollee. She plans to graduate from high school in spring 2014 and attend college in the fall, majoring in electrical and computer engineering.

"Calista is brilliant, talented and tireless, and a very nice and personable young lady as well," said Dr. Michael J. Conti, CEO of PA Cyber Charter School. "She is a role model for every young woman who seeks high achievement, especially in the fields of science and technology. We are exceptionally proud of who she is and what she has achieved."

About PA Cyber and STEM

Recognized as an educational innovator, PA Cyber's efforts to foster  student interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers includes a partnership with the Los Alamos National Laboratories to create a series of courses called Cutting Edge Science (CES), supplementing its large selection of regular science and technology courses. Students who join the CES Club undertake projects and interact with working scientists at Los Alamos.

CES courses include epidemiology, biotechnology, biofuels, forensic science, emerging genetics, sports medicine, stem cell research, energy, solar technology, future transportation and climate. Engineering courses are grouped into a School of Engineering and include introduction to engineering, applied engineering, land speed vehicles, and critical thinking.

About half the students enrolled in PA Cyber's CES courses are female, according to Jennifer Shoaf, senior administrator for curriculum.

This year, PA Cyber launched an extracurricular group called "Sciber Sisters" for girls in grades 5-12 who are interested in STEM careers. Monthly online meetings include discussion of college and careers, and contact with women working in STEM fields.

PA Cyber is Pennsylvania's first K-12 statewide cyber charter school. With a current enrollment of 11,500, it is recognized as the state's most successful cyber school, and a national innovator in online education. PA Cyber (www.pacyber.org, 1.888.PACYBER) is now enrolling for the 2013-2014 school year.

(Source: PA Cyber Charter School. Contact Jill Valentine, 724.624.0473)


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