Students at Oyster River High School, one of 40 nationwide to receive the National Award in Computing

Oyster River High School senior Kelly Zhang of Durham is one of only 40 students across the country to receive the Award for Aspirations in Computing presented by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). (Courtesy National Center for Women & Information Technology via Oyster River High School)

DURHAM — Superintendent James Morse and Principal Rebecca Noe are pleased to announce that a student at Oyster River High School is one of 40 students nationwide and the only student in New Hampshire to be recognized for achievement in computer science .

Senior Kelly Zhang of Durham received the Award for Aspirations in Computing presented by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). The award recognizes students in grades 9-12 who identify as female, genderqueer, or non-binary for their computing-related achievements.

In 2021, Zhang was a New Hampshire Affiliate winner and one of several hundred students to receive honorable mentions nationally. This year she is one of only 40 students to win the national award.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology is a nonprofit community of nearly 1,500 universities, corporations, nonprofits, and government organizations across the country dedicated to promoting the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women in the field of computing, particularly innovation, increase and development.

“Recognition as a national recipient of the Aspirations in Computing Award is an incredible honor,” said Zhang. “The future I want to build is diverse and just. I believe that together we can create gender equality in technology. I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, friends, teachers and the entire Oyster River community, so I hope to extend this achievement to everyone equally.”

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Zhang began her journey into computer science when she joined her school’s robotics club in 5th grade and taught herself to code. In the 2020-2021 season, Zhang assumed the role of lead programmer on her VEX robotics teams, which took first place in New Hampshire and qualified for Worlds. In addition to robotics, Kelly competes at the Gold level of the USA Computing Olympiad.

Alongside her own interest in technology, Kelly believes in sharing her passions. For three years she volunteered at computer-related summer camps. She has been invited to serve as a camp counselor for the University of New Hampshire’s EPIC camp in 2020, in person and virtually, and has assisted as a judge and commentator at robotics events.

As a sophomore, Zhang, with the help of computer science teacher Cathi Stetson, started a group at Oyster River High School for students interested in computers, especially girls. One member gave the group its name: The CodeRunners. Club members program games, create websites, develop apps and participate in hackathons. They recently gained national recognition by being inducted into the National Computer Science Honor Society.

Kelly received early admission to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in December 2022 and traveled to Charlotte, NC in March 2023 to attend the National Award Ceremony where she had the opportunity to accept her award and meet current and previous winners.

“We are very proud of Kelly and her achievements,” said Principal Noe. “She has high expectations and works hard to meet them. She is also someone who gives back to others. Whether it’s starting the CodeRunners or tutoring 80 students for the SAT and PSATs for free, Kelly wants to help all students achieve something. We can’t wait to see what else she achieves in her future. I would also like to thank Cathi Stetson, Kelly’s computer science teacher, for her remarkable support.”

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“Kelly is an outstanding example of academic excellence and community service,” said Superintendent Morse. “She has demonstrated her leadership in the STEM fields and her commitment to creating an inclusive and bright future for all students.”