Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is a focus in America for students, but many young new American women have come to Western New York with limited educational experience or access to technology studies. Often, their countries of origin and cultures discouraged their development, especially in technology careers. The AT&T "Coding Your Future" program aims to address this issue and provide 30 local new American girls computer coding classes - plus the skills and confidence to follow a STEM educational and career pathway.
"Coding Your Future," made possible by a significant contribution from AT&T, is a partnership between AT&T, the WNY STEM Hub, Buffalo Urban League and SUNY Buffalo State Office of Research & Development, in collaboration with Journey's End Refugee Services Inc. and ACCESS WNY. This is a first-of-its-kind program in the region that is designed to create a community of new American teen women. The program will introduce them to computer technology skills and female role models that were not readily available to them in their homeland.
The free, two-week introduction to computer coding is unique in using culturally sensitive recruitment and instruction, including a story-telling component, in addition to basic computer coding training. Youth will also be mentored by local tech professionals, educators and advocates to identify and design coding solutions. Female role models will also share their stories and insights daily in "WNY STEM Café" conversations to encourage bonds of friendship and support. By the end of the program, the girls will develop a website that is a repository of their stories with reflections of their homelands and their journey to the U.S. and Western New York, while creatively expressing their feelings and perspectives on their new home.
The young women participants will also learn how technology and computer science can be used for social good to create solutions that address issues impacting youth in this region, such as cyberbullying and being a good digital citizen.
AT&T "Coding Your Future" will be held July 30-Aug. 10 on the SUNY Buffalo State campus, home to WNY STEM Hub's Girls Coding Project, which was launched in partnership with AT&T in 2016.
Coding is quickly becoming the new literacy and is the driver of all new digital technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor, much of the growth in the domestic and global economy will come from STEM-related jobs. It is estimated that, by 2020, there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers, underscoring the importance of providing area youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in this innovation economy.
The urgency for more computer science employees is accentuated by the low percentage of females who are currently employed at major technology firms (29 percent), and women pursuing bachelors' degrees for computer science (18 percent). These statistics do not reflect new American girls, which is much lower.
"AT&T is proud to collaborate with the WNY STEM Hub and the other dynamic organizations to develop and support this innovative experience for the new American girls as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for STEM-related educational programming throughout Western New York and builds upon our vigorous efforts to bridge the gender gap in the technology industry," said Marissa Shorenstein, president, Northeast region, AT&T. "Our economy continues to transform at a robust pace - requiring a workforce with a focus on technological education and literacy - and computer science programs like this one are vital to ensure that the students of today, despite gender or culture, are equipped to compete in the global innovation economy of tomorrow."
AT&T "Coding Your Future" also aligns with the purpose of Journey's End Refugee Services, to provide refugees with the resources and support they need to become successful, active and contributing members of the Western New York community. The agency will provide cultural acclimation training to the students.
"As a father of two daughters and service provider to the Buffalo immigrant population, I am truly inspired that AT&T and WNY STEM Hub is facilitating this great opportunity for young women to learn about career options for their future," says Jeff Ogilvie, deputy director of the agency.
The program will be held in the Technology Building on the SUNY Buffalo State campus. Housing the project on the campus will introduce the students to a college campus setting.
"Buffalo State is excited to host this incredible group of young women this summer for the AT&T 'Coding Your Future' program," Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner said. "We are proud to partner with WNY STEM Hub, AT&T, Buffalo Urban League, Journey's End Refugee Services Inc., and ACCESS WNY as the Buffalo community comes together to collectively lift these young women up and prepare them to reach for the stars."
WNY STEM Hub is facilitating the program to engage the next generation workforce in meaningful ways. "The goal of AT&T 'Coding Your Future' is to inspire young women and introduce them to emerging technologies," said Cherie Messore, executive director of WNY STEM Hub. "By partnering with local organizations who are close to newly resettled families, our priority is to make this program culturally inclusive and welcoming."
AT&T's partnership with WNY STEM to create this initiative, and $20,000 contribution to fund the program, is part of the company's legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM disciplines in New York through AT&T Aspire, the company's signature, $400 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, employee volunteerism and mentoring.