Middleburg Community Charter School students had a special surprise Wednesday morning. Senior Presidential Adviser Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, visited a fifth-grade coding class before speaking to the entire school.

Trump was joined by Microsoft President Brad Smith and Hadi Partovi, founder of code.org and the Hour of Code program, to speak on the importance of STEM, computer science and coding.

"I view STEM and computer science and coding skills as so important and foundational, not just to be a great tech executive or leader like Brad and Hadi but to really achieve success in any field that you want to go into whether it's education or health care or aerospace," Trump said. "Coding is not only really, really cool, but it's also so important for whatever it is you may want to do."

The MCCS visit came as a celebration of two events this week that will expand STEM education. First, on Sept. 25, President Trump signed a memorandum instructing the Department of Education to prioritize STEM education and coding to align education with the growing needs in the workforce.

Then, on Sept. 26, Ivanka Trump joined a group of private sector leaders in Detroit who pledged millions of dollars to aid the federal effort to increase access to STEM education in public schools, Trump said.

"Your ability to code will help you go further," Smith said. "Thanks to what Ivanka has been doing over the last several months, to work with a lot of tech companies plus the White House and her father, more kids in more classrooms are going to have the chance to race with you to the future."

Ivanka Trump interacts with students at Middleburg Community Charter School on Sept.

27. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud

In addition to speaking with the student body, the high-profile visitors also joined in on some coding with the fifth-grade class. Three student leaders led the guests in a Minecraft coding activity alongside the rest of the class. Smith said he was impressed with what the students could do and their willingness to ask for help when they got stuck.

"Coding is lots of things, but it's actually, at the end of the day, a team sport and it's about helping each other," Smith said. "When you work as a team you can go far."

Partovi learned how to code when he was 10 years old from his father and eventually got a job in the technology sector. He realized that in modern society everyone should be able to code, but it is not taught in school. This is what inspired him to create his website and coding programs, so that more students could have the opportunity to learn this vital skill set.

"Just like you learn math in school, you learn English, reading and a little bit of science, computer science should part of that too," Partovi said. "Computers are now clearly here to stay and they're changing things about our lives."

Expanding access to STEM is a priority for Partovi and Trump. By teaching these skills in schools, the hope is that more diverse pool of students learn and potentially later enter related jobs. White and Asian men dominate technology jobs despite women being pioneers in the field, Partovi said.

Ivanka Trump said women make up only 22 percent of the computer science field, and she would like to see that percentage increase. She said seeing the amount of girls participating in coding activities at MCCS is a step in the right direction.

"We're really excited and we're starting in classrooms like this one," Trump said.

From left, presidential advisor Donald Trump Ivanka Trump, Code.org Founder Hadi Partovi and Microsoft President Brad Smith at Middleburg Community Charter School Sept. 27. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud
Ivanka Trump hands out high-fives in Middleburg. Times-Mirror/Doug Stroud

Contact the writer at vcollazo@loudountimes.com or on Twitter at @VeronikeCollazo.

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