A University of California, Berkeley student is using her scholarship to power her goals as well as provide STEM training for young girls in her home country of Uganda.

Gloria Tumushabxe, who is pursuing a master’s in computer science, graduated high school as a valedictorian. Through the Mastercard Foundation Scholar, a program that has provided $1.2 billion to developing future African leaders, she was able to go to the U.S. to attend college, according to Berkeley News. 

Her parents, both accountants, encouraged her to receive the best education she could find.

“You can become a better engineer at one of those top institutions,” her father, who is now retired, said.

"I felt like I won the lottery when I got the letter that said I got into Berkeley and that I got a scholarship," Tumushabe shared. "I don't think I slept."

It is almost 2am. I’m sitting in my bed feeling thankful. When I came from Uganda four years ago, I did not know that...

Posted by Gloria Elise Tumushabe on Thursday, August 27, 2020
The college student said she wanted to help provide new opportunities for youth in her community, where 77% of the population is under the age of 25. Opportunities for women and young girls are limited, and Tumushabe’s story is an exception that she said she’s hoping to change.

She created a program called Afro Fem Coders to enrich Ugandan girls with the resources and training the Cal-Berkeley student has received at one of America’s top schools.

After spreading news of her program back home, Tumushabe found that a number of the girls who were interested didn’t have access to laptops. Once the college student was able to secure computers, other girls experienced issues connecting to Wi-Fi.

“I feel like I don’t send them as much as I could,” she told Berkeley News. "But that’s all I can afford.”

Despite the obstacles, Tumushabe has remained committed to finding ways to help develop young people in her community.

"I'm so lucky. I have a scholarship that gives me a stipend. So part of my stipend goes towards the girls' internet," she said.

During the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many of the program participants were set back academically and socially.

"As a girl, I basically had to stay at home and do housework," Martha Atwine said. "That's all I could do in a pandemic."

Tumushabe saw the need for her skills, and seized the opportunity to lend her expertise to educate young people.

"I thought maybe this is my moment to actually start teaching and really empower these people to learn computer science," she said.

The college student has since created a GoFundMe to help fund the program and support the girls’ STEM activities.

“Less than 5% of programmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are women,” she wrote on the crowdfunding platform. “By empowering young women to code, we are shaping leaders who will innovate and positively impact people’s lives.”

Through the support she’s rallied, Tumushabe shared that the program has been able to expand its offerings.

"Now, instead of teaching one class, we're actually teaching two classes," Tumushabe said.

CBS News reports that participants in Tumushabe’s program will be applying to colleges in the US soon. Although she has a full plate of her own, the computer science student says that it’s been worth seeing the impact she made in her country.

"Sometimes it feels like a lot, but I get the satisfaction from watching how much my students have grown... And then I get these phone calls like 'Hey, Gloria, I'm calling you to say thank you,'" she said.