San José is often considered the center of both technological innovation and affluence. Given that image, however, the truth remains that many of San José’s communities are characterized by vast economic inequality, including poverty and low educational attainment. The desire of many families that CommUniverCity works with is for their children to have access to education and skills that will allow them to attain well-paying jobs.
Providing opportunities for underrepresented youth to learn computer programming benefits both local families and Bay Area tech companies. On one hand, providing local youth with computer programming and literacy skills ensures that these young adults can begin successful careers and be included in the growing tech economy of the area. On the other hand, training local talent gives tech employers access to a pool of talent, right in their backyard.
During July and August, CommUniverCity collaborated with San Jose State University’s Jay Pinson STEM Education Program to bring the Youth/Girls STEM Network(Y/GSN) computer literacy & programming workshops. Funded through the generous support of Intel and Symantec, these workshops were held at both McKinley and Roosevelt Community Centers. The program facilitated thirty-five 4th-8th grade students to learn computer coding using programs such as Scratch and MicroWorlds. In addition, they were able to learn components of a computer, learn about careers related to cybersecurity, and strengthen their computer typing skills. Star, a 7th grader at the McKinley Youth Center site reflected on her experience:
“It was really helpful. It was difficult to type the correct way but I figured out how to do it because the program helped. I learned how to do animation, about cybersecurity, like computer safety and hackers…black hats and white hats.”
In the past couple of months, news has circulated about both the positive and negative effects of the tech industry and its relationship with underrepresented communities in Silicon Valley.
In critical news, much news coverage has surfaced about the Tech industry’s negative secondary effects of gentrification and socioeconomic inequality on local, non-tech, low income communities, many who are underrepresented communities of color.
However, on a positive note, tech giant Google has recently called itself out on the lack of diversity within its employee population. As a result, Google decided to collaborate with Code School to offer opportunities to teach computer programming skills to women and people of color. The hope is that Code School will provide the support for women and people of color to enter the Tech work force.
A pressing question in the Silicon Valley is how do underrepresented communities make peace with both the positive and negative effects of the tech industry? One of many other rising solutions has been to provide training to local bay area people to work in the tech industry. We hope that this summer program led by CommUniverCity and San José State will become part of the solution to train underrepresented youth with important computer skills.