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High School Sophomore Kicks Off Women in IT Conference

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges launched their annual Women in IT Conference last week with a keynote from a Davenport North High School student who founded a nonprofit to provide tech support to local veterans.

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(TNS) — Local community colleges kicked off their annual conference on Women in Information Technology with a 15-year-old keynote speaker.

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) held their eighth annual Women in IT Conference on Friday, beginning with words from a high school sophomore from Davenport.

Abigail Johnson talked about her emergence at a young age in the technology industry, including her purple ribbon at the State Technology Fair as a fifth-grader and being accepted to one of Harvard University's game-design camps the following summer.

"I never thought I'd be somewhere like this and be able make this much of an impact on people," Johnson said. "Heck, I always looked at the speakers at technology conferences with starry eyes, like they were so cool and 'I wish I could be like them.' I'm so glad to be such a young woman in technology because it's such a wonderful field."

A sophomore at Davenport North High School, Johnson is the CEO and founder of Veterans Tech Support, a nonprofit that provides computers and help using them to local veterans. She hopes inspire others — no matter their age or experience — to find a way to help others.

"If I'm able to do it, I can convey to other people my age, and other women, that anyone can do this," she said. "Anyone can step up; you just need to find a way to help people. I'm just so happy to be here and possibly be able to inspire others to do good."

Johnson launched the Veterans Tech Support in September after winning the 2021-22 Pilot Pen Science FriXion STEM Student Grant from the "Kelly Clarkson Show." She also was one of 10 recent winners in the National Society of High School Scholars' (NSHSS) "Be More-A-Thon," where she had to pitch and present the organization to a panel of judges for a $10,000 grant.

Veterans Tech Support provides monthly classes across three local Legions, each equipped with the needed technology. Classes cover computer basics, Google and email, cybersecurity, smartphones, virtual meetings and photos.

Though it would require more financial and volunteer support, Johnson hopes to bring a Veterans Tech Support location to every state, ultimately.

Aside from being a full-time high school student and CEO, she also is enrolled at EICC and plans to graduate high school with her associate degree. She said her "dream school" was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For more information on Veterans Tech Support, to donate or volunteer, visit

Event organizer Roberta Osmers, IT department chair at EICC, said this year's conference drew 50 attendees, which matched the highest turnout in 2018.

"We started Women in IT because we wanted the women coming to our program to be able to talk with women who are already working in the field," she said. "This is an opportunity for that interaction, and we've built mentorships out of it.

"There's just something about learning from somebody who looks like you that makes a difference to people."

That's what pushed 34-year-old Alexis Diediker, a second-year cybersecurity student at EICC, to attend.

"I enjoy the industry, and I like meeting other women because I don't think there's enough," she said. "The more people you meet, the more you get to learn and more things you get to do, so it's just cool to kind of meet and have this commonality."

©2023 Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.