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“It proves I can do anything I put my mind to”

Niagara Falls High School students excelled in CS 105, a computer science course offered in fall 2023 by Stanford Digital Education.

The Niagara Falls City School District honored 10 of its high school students at its March 14 board meeting for passing the same undergraduate computer science course that hundreds of Stanford undergraduates have taken over the past three decades. 

The video above shows the Niagara Falls High School students who took the Stanford course Computer Science 105: Introduction to Computers accepting their completion certificates and discussing how the course had helped to prepare them for college. A transcript of the video is below.

CS 105 is a challenging course with a heavy workload. Students learn CSS and HTML coding, study the programming language Python, are taught the fundamentals of computer security and privacy, and build their own websites as the final project. While a typical undergraduate course at Stanford is three or four credits, this one is worth five. In addition to earning Stanford credits, the NFHS students have also been awarded credits from Niagara Falls High School toward their high school degrees.

At NFHS, the course spanned six months. Students met in a classroom after school under the direction of teacher Danielle DePalma. While there, they logged onto laptops to get personalized lessons via Zoom from Stanford teaching fellows. At home and in class, they would watch lecture videos by the course creator, Patrick Young, a lecturer in the computer science department at Stanford. Students had weekly assignments to complete, and if they needed help, they could ask the Stanford teaching fellows questions during online office hours.

Stanford Digital Education ran the class at Niagara Falls High School with the nonprofit National Education Equity Lab, which brings Stanford and other top-tier university courses into Title I high schools nationwide — at no charge to students. The program recognizes that many talented students in low-income communities do not have access to advanced material and seeks to fill that gap. 

"Talent is sadly wasted when a student with untapped high-level potential goes unnoticed because they are never exposed to elite offerings in higher education," said Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie. 

"The only difference between Niagara Falls High School's top students and those at more affluent schools is opportunity. Our students are just as talented, intelligent, and dedicated as students from districts where most families do not have to struggle to make ends meet. That is what makes this program so important to the district; it's helping to even the playing field."

This is the first year that CS 105 was offered at NFHS. Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education Priscilla Fiden said Stanford looks forward to offering it again in the next school year. "We believe that our computer science course can be a life-changing experience for students," Fiden said. "We aim to encourage students from low-income communities to dream bigger and consider applying to selective schools they might not have previously considered. After completing this course, they should be more confident about succeeding wherever they might go to college."

The idea for bringing CS 105  to NFHS came from the PipeDreamers Foundation, a Stanford-founded nonprofit education and workforce development organization with a mission "to educate, train and mentor at-promise and underserved American teenagers and young adults preparing them for the future of work starting with design and coding skills."

Stanford Digital Education's dual enrollment program began offering Stanford courses in Title I high school classrooms nationwide in the fall of 2021. There is a total of five courses, including CS 105. The high school students are registered as nonmatriculated Stanford students. All of the courses are a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, with a local high school teacher running the classes (in-person), along with a Stanford teaching fellow giving instruction (via Zoom). 


MARK LAURRIE, superintendent of schools, Niagara Falls City School District: I'm extremely thrilled. Who would have ever thought that Niagara Falls High School kids could earn college courses from Stanford University, an Ivy League school of the West Coast, a high prestige school? And we've got kids at Niagara Falls High School earning college credits through that, that will stay with them throughout their whole career.

ASA GATES, senior: It's unbelievable that I was able to get this opportunity to take a class at Stanford.

ANGELIC ADKINS, senior: I feel very proud of myself.

JOSIAH WALKER, junior: See, I didn't know nothing about coding before the class or anything. And it opened me up to, I guess, college more.

CHERYL VILARDO, principal, Niagara Falls High School: Families, thank you for sending us these wonderful students. You make our jobs easy, you make us look good. It was the legitimate full Stanford course. Only a couple of differences. We did give a little more adult support to our students, and the time frame was slightly different. But otherwise, everything that a student on Stanford's campus did, our students did as well.

DANTE RICHARDSON, Pipedreamers Foundation: I think it's beautiful. It's what I envisioned when I brought it to Niagara Falls High School, just to give the kids here a better shot at what the future beholds.

ASA GATES: Honestly, it just prepares me for college. It gets me up to that pace.

ANGELIC ADKINS: It really means everything. I know at the beginning of the course, I was just a little intimidated at first with all the work, but with the help of my teacher motivating me to finish, I feel like it really just helped.

JOSIAH MARPLE, junior: It means that I have taken one of my first steps into the real college world.

DANTE RICHARDSON: Next year they're going to be putting it directly into the high school curriculum. I think it's going to be great.

CHERYL VILARDO: It's already part of core selection, so as our students are picking courses right now for next year, they have it offered to them. We've made it part of our career pathways.

MICHAEL ACEDO, Stanford Digital Education: Stanford Digital Education is really excited to continue this partnership with Niagara Falls High School. We're looking forward to offering CS 105 again in the fall and potentially offering it to more students, along with some new material centered around artificial intelligence.

MARK LAURRIE: This is our first time with Stanford University and I have to tell you they've been more than accommodating, more than helpful because it's literally 3,000 miles away from Niagara Falls High School. We're bridging East Coast and West Coast.

KIAIRE FIELDS, senior: I'm excited and I'm happy about it, and I'm proud of myself. And it proves that I can do anything that I put my mind to.

[ON-SCREEN TEXT] In its first two years partnering with the National Education Equity Lab, Stanford Digital Education reached more that 1,290 students in under-resourced high schools.

A unit in the university provost’s office, Stanford Digital Education seeks to build and enhance digital pathways that increase access to the extraordinary knowledge and community at Stanford.

A nonprofit organization, National Education Equity Lab partners with universities to deliver and support online college credit-bearing courses into teacher-led high school classrooms across the country.

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