A Library Story: Kyara and Valeria Torres-Olivares

A Library Story

“Without the library, we would have never gotten the chance to teach over 4,000 students both in the library and out. That support has allowed us to provide computer science education to thousands of students and to grow as individuals.”

Photo credit: Catherine “Cie” Stroud

An open and welcoming community hub. That’s how Kyara and Valeria Torres-Olivares describe the library. Residents of Princeton and regulars at the library since early childhood, the sisters are co-founders of Code Equal, a non-profit organization which provides free coding classes and other computer science resources to girls and under-represented minority students. Through Code Equal, Valeria, a junior at Princeton University, and Kyara, a senior at Princeton High School, conduct Girl Code and gender-inclusive Code It classes at the library.

“The library was our first stop,” Valeria said about the early days of Code Equal when the sisters were looking for places to teach and create more diversity in STEM spaces.

When the coding classes began at the library, demand was higher than anything the sisters expected. In that way, the classes were not unlike the Spanish language story times their mother, Veronica Olivares-Weber, established at the library when the family first came to Princeton.

“Our mom noticed the lack of diversity in those using the library programs and resources,” Kyara said of that time. “With the goal of creating a space for Spanish Latin American speakers to join the library community, she began to volunteer to host story times in Spanish.” “I was only 3 years old and Valeria was 7 when (our mom) started storytelling,” she said. “Each week we became her little helpers.

“My family also created Festival Cultural Latino, an event meant to celebrate and provide space to Latin American creatives,” said Kyara. “When looking for a space to host this event, the library graciously opened its doors and plaza to us so that we could celebrate Latinidad in the center of Princeton.”

In addition to teaching at the library, the sisters have created New Jersey’s first Congressional App Challenge Hackathon, created coding tutorials, attended speaking engagements and taught workshops in the Bronx and Trenton. And they credit the library with helping to make it all happen.

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