Glenbrook South student and coding whiz creates award-winning app
Whether it's national politics, the local school board or the plight of a fire station, high school students have not been bashful speaking out on current events.
Glenbrook South junior Lauren Ravury wants to help these voices build. Her application, "Dear Gen Z," won the 2020 Congressional App Challenge within Rep. Jan Schakowsky's 9th District.
Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, Ravury and her family would have been in Washington, D.C., from April 6-8, demonstrating her creation at the House of Code reception, attending a STEM fair, hearing pitches from companies and colleges. This year's House of Code was a virtual affair.
"It went well. I really enjoyed it," she reported on Tuesday.
There were 308 members of Congress who hosted the App Challenge. More than 6,500 students participated, and they created 3,088 functioning "apps." There were 308 winners, one for each district spanning 49 states, Puerto Rico, the Mariana Islands and Washington, D.C.
Ravury declared she is "not an activist at all." A computer coding whiz, her contribution is a tool designed to help peers be more engaged in current topics and events.
"Even though we were isolated in the midst of a global pandemic, I felt they need to know what's going on so that they could have a voice in the world today," said Ravury, who submitted "Dear Gen Z" for the App Challenge last October. She's primarily interested in aspects pertaining to social justice.
Ravury needed the application to have a "meaningful purpose."
"Dear Gen Z" includes links to socially conscious organizations and information on topics such as climate change, mental health awareness, the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections, though, with the general election behind us, she may edit that for an updated version. The app is not yet commercially available but Ravury plans on publishing "Dear Gen Z" in the late summer.
The application suggests ways students can get involved, offers links on internship opportunities and links to movements for people to donate. She also has information on petitions to sign.
The app includes music playlists and "videos that people can watch to become more relaxed," said Ravury, who served as a poll worker in the 2020 General Election.
"I think the world is sort of in a state where it needs guidance, it needs people who are willing and ready to make changes, and people who are wanting to see the world change for the better. I think it needs people who are passionate and people who are devoted," said Ravury, the middle child of two schoolteachers.
To set the hook in potential users, Lauren enlisted her creative sister Kaitlyn, a senior at Glenbrook South, to help with the application's design and layout.
"Part of an app's design is that it has to be visually appealing, and I think my sister was a great help with that," said Lauren, who with a classmate took a project -- the impact of the Cabrini-Green project demolition on Chicago -- to the state history fair.
Nominated into the National Honor Society, decorated in both debate and computer coding, Ravury's contemporary heroes are not the Greta Thunbergs of the world, but instead model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss, who supports technology education for young women.
Ravury has been a scholar in the Kode with Klossy program the past two years. She said she'll be an assistant in the summer program this year, be it remote or in-person.
The Glenbrook South junior has in-house support from her parents, Daniel and Anitha Ravury.
"My parents have always been very vocal in me pursuing computer science because there's a lot of opportunities in the field and they've seen me grow more as a person when I pursue this field," Lauren said.
She appreciated Rep. Schakowsky, not just for tapping her as the district's Congressional App Challenge winner, but for advocating for young women, for youth involvement in politics and even "giving me some insight on how to further my app," she said.
With Glenbrook South's debate team, Ravury prefers to take the opposition argument rather than the affirmative. She feels the negative viewpoint offers more meat to dig into.
On the whole, Ravury remains positive.
"I'm optimistic about where the world is headed, just because I think, with my app, my generation will be able to have a voice in politics and one that they can use to empower their own beliefs and change the world for the better," she said.
"I think it's really important to be optimistic about these types of things, because you never should set limits on what people can or cannot do. I think it's important to just reach out to them and make sure that they are informed so that they can use their own platforms and change the world."