ScriptEd: Empowering Kids by Teaching Them to Code

Liz Davidson and I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of inspiring students from low-income communities. We saw our students accomplish amazing things.

Some were the first in their families to go to college. Some overcame language barriers to become valedictorians of their classes. Others earned high grades despite job and family commitments.

Our students told us they were going to be journalists, doctors, forensic scientists, lawyers and teachers. None of them ever told us they were going to be computer scientists, web developers, or software engineers. In fact, most of our students never knew these tech-related careers even existed.

Currently, the technology industry is not accessible to many students through traditional curricula. Only one in ten schools in the United States offer computer science classes. At the same, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the technology sector will grow another 22 percent by 2020, making it one of the fastest growing career fields.

Young black and Latino students are particularly underrepresented in the software engineering industry. To remain innovative, the industry must employ a diverse workforce, and young black and Latino students should be included in that workforce. If we want our students to be included in this industry, we need to provide them with access, information and mentors.
ScriptEd empowers students by bringing computer programming courses directly to their schools, and by helping them secure summer internship opportunities with software developers. Our classes are held twice a week throughout the school year, and are taught by volunteers from the tech industry.

Students participate in hackathons, field trips, job shadowing opportunities, and summer internships to help introduce them to the world of software development. By learning to program, students from low-income communities are empowered to be the creators of technology.
In its first year, ScriptEd served 27 students in two high schools in Harlem and placed four of its students in internships with technology firms. This school year, ScriptEd will expand to an additional four schools in New York City and will serve approximately 100 students.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, Ashoka Changemakers, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Young Men's Initiative in recognition of the "My Voice, Our City" competition, which aims to empower black and Latino young men ages 16-24. To see all the other posts in the series, click here. For more information about "My Voice, Our City", click here; about Ashoka Changemakers, click here; and about the Young Men's Initiative, click here.