Coding for All: A STEM Sector that Reflects America

Yesterday, I joined eleven Champions of Change at the White House to honor their achievements toward making science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industries more inclusive for underrepresented communities.

The Champions of Change are an amazing group of ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. They are sparking imaginations, and captivating young minds, all across the country.

From teaching computer science to high school students, to encouraging young women, and urban teens to code, to writing children’s books, to providing low-income students with programming classes—they are doing phenomenal work for our country’s youth, and their futures.

President Obama cares deeply about making sure that our young people have the opportunity to dream big. Whatever their background, our children deserve the chance to reach for the sky, pursue whatever they put their minds to, and live up to their fullest potential—including working in STEM.

I saw this potential firsthand in April, when I had the opportunity to visit the White House Science Fair. What an experience that was—I visited several of the 30 exhibits, and spoke with students about their projects—they were so excited to be in the White House, and I learned a lot too.

A few young women showed me a rocket that had launched raw eggs without cracking a single one. There was a young woman who made a device that helps strengthen eye muscles and improve vision. Can you imagine that?

I also had the opportunity to meet the parents, and teachers, who have played such a vital role in these young people’s lives. And I hope, that as parents, teachers, mentors, and role models, we continue to lift them up so that they can achieve their dreams.

This is about our young people. But it’s also about the future of our country. President Obama has said that engaging, and exciting young people in STEM is incredibly important to the future of our nation.

On Tuesday, he gave a speech in Tennessee, highlighting how we need to give the middle class a better bargain and create jobs for a 21st century economy.  Those jobs will eventually be filled by our young people. And we know that the students of today will be the inventors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders of tomorrow. We know that students with STEM skills will be a driving force towards making the United States competitive, creative, and innovative.

We also know that as a nation, our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. That’s why President Obama is committed to making sure our STEM talent pool reflects the full spectrum of America.

President Obama launched a public-private initiative to move students to the top of the pack in math and science. This effort, known as the Educate to Innovate Campaign, has to-date generated over $750 million for STEM education efforts.

President Obama is committed to creating STEM education and mentorship opportunities for young women. For example, our science-oriented agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy, have STEM programs specifically for women and girls. And we’re training teachers to help prepare students across the country for rigorous STEM careers.

These are a few accomplishments of the Obama Administration, but we can’t do it alone—and as our champs yesterday prove, with everyone involved, all of our children can pursue their dreams.

Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.
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