KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ruby Rios started learning how to code in the 5th grade. And she's good at it, too.
"The way I typically describe myself is a girl-in-STEM advocate," Rios said.
Over time, Rios realized her passion for programming could help girls re-program the way they think about themselves.
"I think when you can get girls in a safe and supportive environment to learn coding, they just thrive," Rios said.
That notion really manifested when she joined her school's robotics program as a freshman and felt a little nervous about coding.
Now, as a senior at Bishop Miege High School, Rios runs a club she founded called Girls Who Code. She mentors elementary students and introduces them to the world of STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.
After taking a college coding course with a room full of men, and being one of only seven to actually get through the class, she knows how intimidating it can be.
She says as a girl in a male-dominant field, it feels like the spotlight is on you to be perfect.
"One of my main tasks is to teach girls to be brave and not perfect. It's not necessarily teaching them about all the intricacies of tech, but teaching them about being willing to make mistakes," Rios said.
For the last couple hours of her school day, Rios has an internship at Cerner, where she helps improve healthcare software.
She's also working on her own webpage geared toward women in tech.
"There's so much possible with code!" Rios said. Because of this, she's not sure what exactly she wants to do in the future.
Rios already has so many accomplishments under her belt: KC's youngest 30 Under 30 winner, a KCPL Community MVP scholarship recipient, being one of only 20 youth in the U.S. chosen for a STEM program in Africa, sitting on a small roundtable with activist Malala Yousafzai discussing topics on women in leadership roles, starting the KC STEMinists club, teaching coding camps - to name a few.
But her most meaningful accomplishment didn't come in the form of an award.
Two of the students in the Girls Who Code club dressed up as Rios for their "Dress As Your Hero Day" at St. Elizabeth Catholic School. They made their own t-shirts, wore red glasses like Rios, and held up a peace sign like Rios does.
"It was the cutest thing, and that brought me to tears because it showed the ability to code with other girls and have those other enjoyable experiences is so worthwhile for young people. It's incredible," Rios said.