Honoring Tech Inclusion Champions of Change at the White House
Last week, the White House honored 11 heroes as Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion —leaders who have done extraordinary work to connect kids from underrepresented and underserved communities to tech skills and opportunities.
President Obama has emphasized time and again that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are crucial to America’s economic future, and that equipping students with STEM skills is key to our Nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.
But today in America, there is a large gap between the number of tech jobs available and the number of people who have the proper training and education to fill those jobs.
The Obama Administration is taking steps to help close this gap and—recognizing that diversity is one of our Nation’s greatest strengths—is fully committed to ensuring that the Nation’s STEM workforce reflects the full spectrum of unique perspectives, talents, and skills across our country.
Role-models and community leaders from across the Nation, such as the 11 incredible individuals honored at this week’s Champions of Change event, are absolutely critical to making change happen on the ground. Every day, from coast to coast, they are inspiring kids to see themselves as the builders, coders, programmers, and innovators of the future.
Over the course of last week’s two-hour event, best-selling author Baratunde Thurston led a conversation with the newly-minted Champs, who discussed their work and the motivations and passions that fuel their commitment to tech inclusion.
For instance, Jeff Epps, a teacher from North Carolina and one of the new Champs, has dedicated much of his career to inspiring K-12 students through technology and believes that giving students the opportunity to experience technology first-hand is an incredible launching pad into STEM careers. Jeff told an amazing story about a former student interested in interior design and how, through teaching her about 3D printing, he was able to help connect her passion for design to applicable tech skills. The student went on to learn how to create models of houses and began using a 3D printer to design interior furniture as well. Today, that student is helping design real house interiors for local realtors.
Another Champ, Kimberly Bryant, the head of Black Girls Code, talked about the path that inspired her to start an organization that is helping to close the technology opportunity gap for young girls of color. Kimberly aims to help kids—no matter what their background may be—to see themselves in fields such as computer science. Since launching her organization, Bryant now has Black Girls Code chapters across the country and has trained over 2,000 girls through her work.
Theresa Freet, a Champ from the organization Developers for Good, expressed her hope that in the next five to ten years we will no longer need to talk about “tech inclusion,” because kids from all backgrounds, neighborhoods, and communities see—and have the opportunity to realize—their potential to use tech skills to solve big problems.
Across the board, the Champs’ stories had many common themes—including the need for computer science classes in all American schools and the critical importance of strong role models and good teachers to help break down barriers for students. The Tech Inclusion Champs honored last week exemplify the kinds of role models we need. They are showing us what positive impacts can be made when barriers to involvement in the tech fields are knocked down.
To the Champs—congratulations on your incredible accomplishments, and thank you for your ongoing hard work. We look forward to making even more progress together to help connect more kids across America to technology skills and opportunities.
Todd Park is the United States Chief Technology Officer