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Acadiana Trailblazer

When she was growing up in Sunset, Louisiana (population approximately 2500) in the early-mid 1990s, Terysa Ridgeway’s mother would bring home an Apple computer for the summer from the school where she taught. Ridgeway was fascinated by the computer, which gave way to a lifelong love affair with computers and science.

Ridgeway has shared her passion with local students, working with children (grades 6-12) in smaller and underprivileged communities on things like basic computer skills and developing phone apps. Since she came from a small town, Ridgeway wants to give children like her a chance to learn everything she knows. She said giving these children a solid foundation in computer skills is crucial because computer science is like art in many ways. Once you learn the basics, you can be creative and innovative, but you have to learn the building blocks first.

Many of the kids lack confidence at first, but Ridgeway helps them build faith in themselves as they learn.

“Introducing technology to kids, you see the fear in their eyes. You see the shyness in their eyes, but then you see the excitement grow,” Ridgeway said. “It’s like watching a butterfly being born.”

In 2020, Ridgeway, who has a husband and four children under the age of 10, began working for Google as a technical program manager. Since her job began during the pandemic, she has been able to remain in Louisiana and work remotely. So far, the work has been going great.

“It’s everything I always expected it to be,” Ridgeway said.

Acadiana will always hold a special place in Ridgeway’s heart. A genealogy buff, Ridgeway can trace six generations of her family back to the same square mile of land she grew up on in Sunset. — Fritz Esker

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