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Coppell started out as a centralized, close-to-work place to land for local volunteer Andrea Solka, but it didn't take long for her and her family to settle in and call it home.
"I fell in love with Coppell," she said. "I love the small town feel and it just offers a lot."
Now a 26-year resident and recently retired from IBM after 31 years, the former programmer and marketing manager is enjoying spending more time giving back to the community she loves so much. She's a member of the Coppell Women's Club, serves on the board of Mobility Credit Union, and is co-chair of a social action committee through her synagogue as well as the Communications Secretary for Coppell Alumnae Panhellenic Association. She also spends time rescuing and fostering dogs as a co-founder of Lone Star Labrador Retriever Rescue. However, one of her main passions is helping young women get a leg up in the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Several years ago, Solka began co-leading the Girls Inspired Greatly About the World Of Technology (GIGAWOT) girls summer camp through IBM. Now in its 17th year, the four-day camp features activities centered around robotics, design, engineering, and more for interested girls selected by their Coppell Middle School teachers to participate. The camp is intended to show girls the opportunities available in STEM fields and create excitement for those opportunities.
"I got into computer science because I loved math growing up," Solka said. "I have a passion to encourage other young girls, especially showing them math and science and the fun in it. I love to show them that engineering could be a great potential career and there is such a need."
Solka also encourages young students by teaching game development and animation in after school programs as a part-time instructor with Coding With Kids.
Most recently, Solka took her love of community and channeled it into the Allies in Community initiative through the City of Coppell. The program, which brings people from all cultures and walks of life together with the aim to create a more inclusive and civically engaged community, recently concluded its first session with a positive response. Solka said she was impressed with the workshops and the unique concept behind the program.
"I've seen the diversity of our city change," she said. "Through the program I got to know people I probably wouldn't have ever met. I loved learning about other cultures and my neighbors and I'm thankful I got the opportunity."
The Allies initiative seemed to have a profound effect on many of the first cohort's participants. While there are plans to assemble another cohort in the future, Solka said there is no doubt the inaugural class will continue spreading its knowledge for building relationships and influence for community involvement throughout Coppell.
Learn more about the Allies in Community program along with local volunteer opportunities at coppelltx.gov/allies or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.