Kevin Mitchell is being honored as a Champion of Change for his work to expand opportunities for young learners from communities historically underserved or underrepresented in tech fields.
I was fortunate to be exposed to technology from an early age. In elementary school, I learned the foundations of programming through the “turtle graphics” programming language LOGO. My high school had an amazing computer science and technology program. I participated in the American Computer Science League programming competitions, and built and refurbished PCs for a local nonprofit. Throughout my education, I was exposed to a variety of hardware and software concepts that have given me a huge advantage in my career as a software engineer.
Unfortunately, many of the schools in our communities are not able to offer the same kind of technology education that was available to me. Currently, only ten percent of American schools offer a computer science program. Without fundamental computer literacy skills, today's students will struggle to compete in an increasingly computer dependent economy. Our country must act quickly to provide students with the learning opportunities necessary to develop this literacy.
That’s why I’ve taken on the role of lead volunteer at ScriptEd, a nonprofit that brings computer programming classes to schools in underserved communities. Our program works with local developers who volunteer by teaching classes, developing curriculum materials, and mentoring students. Our volunteers allow our students to see that a passion for technology can open up incredible opportunities, and provide them with the guidance they need to develop 21st century career skills.
We've seen a great amount of interest from developers in New York City who want to give back to the community through our program, and we are actively working to expand to additional schools and create a reusable open source curriculum. We recently ran a hackathon, an event where students spent an entire day working with technology professionals to design and develop programs around a central theme. We've also placed several of our students in paid internships at technology firms, providing them with real-world experience to help them be successful in a modern economy.
The teachers and mentors I had as a student helped to instill in me a passion for technology. I want to share this passion, and enable other professionals in the technology field to do the same. The feeling I get when I see a concept finally “click” in a student’s eyes is incredibly rewarding. We've seen our students go from being unable to type or create files, to writing programs that solve real-world problems and allow them to express their creativity.
I'm very proud of our students, and amazed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers who take time out of their busy schedules to teach and mentor them. Not only are we giving our students the skills they need for a bright future, we are also giving them a set of tools that will enable them to drive the future success of America.
Kevin Mitchell is a Lead Volunteer for ScriptEd.