Yesterday, was admissions day for Comp Sci High, a new charter school that is opening its doors in the Bronx this fall for its inaugural freshmen class. This school will prepare high schoolers with technology skills and real work experience to better equip them for opportunities and career paths in technology. I recently joined the board, and I’m incredibly excited about what the school will accomplish.
Over the past four years, I’ve been inching my way toward greater involvement in NYC’s education community. When I worked at Stack Overflow, the world’s largest website for developers to ask and answer programming questions, I witnessed the pipeline problem that employers were experiencing when hoping to recruit engineers from diverse backgrounds. Through my work with Beyond Coding, I’ve observed first-hand what an impact it can make for students to simply have access and exposure to career opportunities in tech earlier on. Today, I hope to help contribute access to industry partnerships for the incoming class of students at Comp Sci High.
In 2018, every company in the world is a tech company. If you can code, you have options. If you graduate today without any technical literacy or computational thinking skills, doors close in nearly every industry sector — as does the potential for future innovation.
Right now, the South Bronx (an area with much more diversity than your typical tech company, but with just as much raw talent), nine in ten students test below grade level in 8th grade in both reading and math. In other words — only 10% of students will have test scores good enough to even apply to NYC’s selective (good) high schools. If you don’t get into a strong high school, your odds of graduating decrease significantly, and the likelihood that you receive a college degree drops below 10% (for low-income students). We can do so much better than this to promote equal opportunities for talented New Yorkers.
By combining technology, personal development, and work-based learning, Comp Sci High hopes to arm students with a toolkit they need to succeed in this ever-evolving labor market. By the end of this first year, all students will have participated in job-shadowing trips and met with industry professionals in small-group settings. Remember — we’re talking about high school freshmen here. Think about how impactful it might be to connect with an engineer at a top-tier tech company at as 14-year-old…or what it might to be the first in your family to attend college or work in a professional career. How might that affect your goals, aspirations, or where you draw the upper boundary for your career?
To make the initial phone calls to parents of accepted students to Comp Sci High, ten staff and board members packed into a conference room yesterday morning. Even for this first class, there were more than 1,000 applicants in the school’s admissions lottery, with students in the 12th district receiving priority access to the 110 available seats. (After yesterday’s lottery, the waitlist still stands at over 900 students).
It was my first time participating in admissions calls — giving parents I had never met the news that their children had received a spot — and the excitement on the other end of the phone was palpable. This sense of possibility is what inspired me to join the Comp Sci High board. And it’s what I heard in parents voices on these calls yesterday. Many parents felt they were finally, for the first time, getting access to a top-notch, relevant education in their own community. (Here’s a picture of me during the first accepted offer I received. If I was smiling this much, just think how many smiles there were on the other side.)
There’s a lot of work to get done to get the school ready for its first freshmen class, and I’m excited to be a part of this project. If you’d like to get involved (either as a volunteer or other partner), drop me a note or sign up here as a volunteer.