Computer Science major and Baker Scholar Klarizsa Padilla is passionate about mentoring others through a variety of programs, including GU Women Who Code and the Summer College Immersion Program. Photo by Melissa Nyman.
July 21, 2015—Last fall, Klarizsa Padilla (C’17) wanted to attend a meeting of the GU Computer and Electronics Club. When she arrived for the meeting, she was surprised to find only a guy in his dorm room. “I walked in and said, ‘This isn’t White-Gravenor, is it?’”
A new transfer student, Padilla had mistakenly entered a completely different building. Fortunately, “[the guy] actually walked me over to White Gravenor and told me if I needed to know where anything [else] was, I could find his floor,” she remembered. “I really appreciated that because it was a pretty embarrassing moment!”
Now Padilla is the one helping others navigate campus. This summer, she is serving as a residential assistant for the Summer College Immersion Program, which brings high-achieving high school students from KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) and Cristo Rey schools around the country to DC for a three-week immersion experience. The high school students take college classes, live in residence halls, and receive mentorship from current Georgetown students.
This program is particularly important to Padilla because she participated in it herself as a high school student.
“The summer experience was really eye-opening for me because I hadn’t toured any colleges before then,” she said. “It was also great because the mentors I had shared a wealth of information…when I was considering transferring [to Georgetown]. That program was an incredible blessing.”
When she speaks to her residents about her own Georgetown experience, Padilla focuses on describing the Jesuit values.
“Especially when I talk to students who are visiting, I tell them about the things that really make [the university] unique,” she explained. “Georgetown does have great academics, but they also have these values that aren’t in every university. Inclusivity and diversity aren’t simply on the pamphlet—[they’re] alive and well. You’re constantly surrounded by people who are so different from you, but you can recognize so much that’s alike as well.”
In addition to counseling high school students, Padilla mentors her peers through GU Women Who Code. The group’s mission is to build digital literacy and encourage women to consider careers in technology. As a computer science major, this mission is Padilla’s particular passion.
“I really enjoyed mentoring when I was able to help people with coding projects,” she said. “People would get so excited because they finally got something to work. That’s one of the best experiences as a computer science major, that ‘Ah ha! This finally is doing what I want it to do!’”
Her computer science interest was born of another summer experience, this one through Google’s computer science summer institute, which she attended shortly after graduating from high school. On the first day, she wrote a code that made “Hello World” appear on her laptop screen.
“It was the coolest experience ever!” Padilla recalled. “Nowadays, a lot of people wouldn’t have been so excited by seeing text on their laptops, but it was like, 'I made that.' I wanted to know what else I could make. I wanted to learn more.”
“I was so fascinated by the creativity of it,” she added. “I thought programming would be sitting at a computer…and not really having the opportunity to be creative, to be innovative. That is exactly the opposite of my view on computer science now. It’s probably one of the most creative majors, in that it is applicable across so many [areas]. You can use it to do so many different things.”
On that note, in addition to her leadership role with GU Women Who Code, Padilla is using her computer science skills as a Google student ambassador, an app development intern with a tech start-up, a web editor for the department of performing arts, a member of the marketing committee with the Baker Scholars Program, and by tutoring at a DC-area middle school.
She attributes her commitment to knowledge sharing to her parents, who are “very centered on the belief that when you’ve been given an opportunity, it’s important to use that opportunity to help other people,” she explained.
In addition, as one of eight kids, “a lot of what I really value–collaboration, supporting one another, embracing other people–comes from being in a big family.”
That family has expanded to include many on the Hilltop.
“What’s great about Georgetown is I’ve found family in so many different areas on campus. Whether it was in the computer science department with professors who were interested in me and helping further my interests, [or] it was in the Georgetown Scholarship Program, which [supported me] when I was not really sure how to navigate certain things. I definitely have found a second home at Georgetown.”