A 16-year-old in a Remote City Becomes a Digital Creator and Global Student with Tekkie Uni
Sophia Oviedo is a 16-year-old student, living in Tartagal, Argentina with her parents.
Tartagal is in a poor, remote area of Argentina, just on the Bolivian border. It’s a hot, arid area, with no tourism and not much of an economy. The opportunities for kids in Tartagal are limited — only the most basic subjects are taught in school, there are no academies or additional classes, and most people don’t finish their education.
Sophia’s parents want her to go to college in another part of the country, where there are more opportunities. Part of getting her ready for college means making sure Sophia is involved in a range of afterschool activities, but that can be challenging in Tartagal, where there isn’t a lot for kids to do.
“Kids my age get together after class to hang out in the afternoon,” says Sophía. “Some play soccer or have English class; those are the most frequent activities.”
Sophia, however, is different. Thanks to her supportive parents and Tekkie Uni’s online platform, Sophía takes coding classes after school. She’s now in her third year of programming.
global education in an isolated area of the world
Sophia started taking courses three years ago, after her father, a doctor, saw an ad for Tekkie Uni on Facebook.
He immediately thought of Sophia. Although Sophia participates in sports, dances, and models, she had never considered studying programming. Learning coding is the sort of opportunity Sophia is unlikely to get at home in Tartagal (coding is considered an activity for adults rather than children). Interested in letting her explore a new skill from the safety of their home, her parents decided to give Tekkie Uni a try.
“We said ‘why not’,” says her mother, Silvana Oviedo.
In the three years since, Sophia has designed mobile apps and games, and she’s developed friendships with other children throughout Latin America and the world.
“She loves to make mobile applications and gets us to play with the applications she invents,” said Silvana. “She always likes to understand how it works, how everything is done.”
Sophia enjoys sharing her projects and her challenges with her parents after class — she talks about what she learned, how the teacher helped her understand the lesson, and what she’s excited about creating next. Programming has given her a deeper insight into technology; although kids in Tartagal do shoot videos, take pictures and play video games on their phone, none of them really know what coding is. For Sophia, programming has allowed her to become a digital creator.
“She has done things that other girls her age haven’t,” says Silvana.
Becoming a student of the world in coding class
In the three years since Sophía started taking classes with Tekkie Uni, Silvana has watched her daughter mature.
“In these courses, she has learned qualities I’ve seen reflected outside the classroom,” said Silvana. “In addition to a sense of responsibility, she has gained independence because she manages her schedule herself.”
She’s also watched her daughter become a global citizen, meeting and developing friendships with kids from other countries, who also love coding.
While Sophía has friends in Tartagal (she has shown them her apps and told them all about her classes), Tekkie Uni has introduced her to a new group of kids who live throughout Latin America, including in Chile and other provinces of Argentina.
Some of Sophía’s most rewarding projects are those she’s worked on with her classmates, a tight-knit international group of kid coders who’ve been studying together for years.
“The project that I enjoyed the most is a group project, because the important thing was to learn to do group work, in pairs,” she said.
She’s been studying with the same group for three years and after so much time together, her Tekkie Uni classmates work as a team, learning together and building projects as a group.
She’s also the only girl in her class.
“In the first year I had some female companions, but today I am the only one, I only have male classmates, and I do not feel disadvantaged. It’s the opposite,” she said. “I feel good. I feel like I can make a difference and stand out positively among my classmates.”
Using coding as a stepping stone to her dreams
Sophia is not exactly sure what she wants to do when she grows up, but she does think technology may play a role in her future.
“For now, I really like the business world,” she said. “I could be an entrepreneur and use programming in the future to create applications for something that doesn’t exist yet and with that make money.”
Her parents support Sophia’s dreams — whatever she ends up wanting to do — but mostly they want her to continue thinking globally and finding opportunities beyond Tartagal’s city limits, as she’s started to do with Tekkie Uni.
“I want her to have that vision of being a citizen of the world, not limited to the physical barriers of the place she lives, but to realize all the possibilities of the world,” says Silvana.