Who knew teaching a kid to code for a week would have such a huge impact on their grades?
True
Microsoft Philanthropies

Let's face it: Technology rules everything around us.

GIF via "Terminator 2."


Chances are that you're probably reading this article on your laptop while simultaneously watching a video about marine iguanas on your tablet and squeezing in a game of Angry Birds on your smartphone to boot ... right?

But despite our almost complete dependence on technology in daily life, why haven't we really integrated technology into our schools' curriculums?

It probably has to do with how tech education programs are expensive.

Just ask the teachers of Englewood in Chicago.

Image via iStock.

Once a sprawling metropolis that housed Chicago's second-largest shopping district, Englewood has seen its poverty levels rise to a staggering 42% — well above the 15% national average — during the last 15 years. With that, population numbers have decreased, crime rates have increased (Englewood currently ranks in the top 10 most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago), and the number of high school graduates has dropped off, according to the Chicago Tribune.

It's safe to say the teachers in this area would agree that expensive tech programs might seem like a luxury when most of their students don't have the basics.

It's not great.

But what if cities like Englewood could afford to teach technology in schools?


Image via Project Tech Teens/Facebook, used with permission.

After all, teaching technology skills to kids could lead to better, higher-paying jobs for them in the future, which has the potential to lower crime rates and build a stronger economy.

It's worth a try.

Founded by Scott Steward and Glenn Pereira in 2013, Project Tech Teens is trying just that.

The uniquely ambitious program is designed to harness the untapped potential of teenagers from underserved communities, teaching them the art (and science ... mostly science) of things like coding, computer science, and computer engineering.

How exactly do they plan on doing this? Through apps, obviously.

"The idea behind Tech Teens is that we can create stronger critical thinking skills and more engagement in schooling using mobile app development as the caveat," Steward told Welcometoterranova.

"Kids are addicted to these devices. ... So we decided that we needed to create a pipeline of young people who were engaged in technology and could start studying engineering and maybe go to college."


Image via Project Tech Teens/Facebook, used with permission.

Project Tech Teens currently offers a variety of programs for students of all ages in a few cities.

In the past couple of years, Project Tech Teens has expanded to over 500 students in schools across St. Louis, Houston, and Detroit. The programs include a one-week residential summer Tech Boot Camp and a more focused, six-week Saturday Hackathon aimed at finding the Steve Jobs of tomorrow.

At these seminars, students are often broken into teams and assigned with the task of thinking up, building, and eventually pitching their apps to potential investors "Shark Tank"-style.


Thankfully, Kevin O'Leary is not actually included. GIF via "Shark Tank."

The results so far have been astounding.

Last year, Project Tech Teens students designed a Guess That Lyric app that challenges users' musical knowledge and a Food Is Life app that helps children learn food groups. Both of these apps and several more were presented as part of a joint program between Project Tech Teens and Teamwork Englewood and were met with incredible acclaim by local community members.

Plus, inside the schools themselves, members of Project Tech Teens are seeing their test scores rise an average of 40%.

"To have students go from this no-tech or low-tech delivery model, where we take this complex understanding of this foreign language and make it really, really digestible, it opens the door for all kinds of learning," Steward said. "Not only can students produce these really cool apps, but they're also coming in now and saying, 'Look at my grades.'"

This is the first step in linking the insanely profitable computer science industry to struggling schools.

Image via Scott Steward of Project Tech Teens, used with permission.

At just $140 for the initial course (which includes a free lunch each day, a free t-shirt, and, oh yeah, a free laptop among other things), Project Tech Teens is redefining "relevant education" in neighborhoods that arguably need this redefinition the most. In doing so, they're providing future leaders with the fundamentals to build a better world around them.

"We're trying to help students make better decisions, be stronger critical thinkers, see the connection between what they do and how it affects their life, and then see the possibilities," Steward said. "We want the students to say 'What if?' and see this as an opportunity to create sustainable, generational wealth for themselves and their families."

Programs like Project Tech Teens are an awesome example of inclusivity and forward-thinking.

They provide not only the short-term benefits of bringing kids off the street and providing them with a safe place to learn, but teach them a valuable skill that could benefit their communities years down the road. We need more of these.

Without the tech-savvy teens of today, who else will be able to lead us to victory in the inevitable cybernetic wars of tomorrow?

Certainly not this guy. GIF via "Terminator 2."

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

Strangers helping out strangers is always a heartwarming thing. But when lots and lots of strangers come together to help one individual who needs and deserves a little hand up, we get a much-needed flood of warm, gushy best-of-humanity feelings.

Such is the case of an 89-year-old pizza delivery man, Derlin Newey, who happened to win the hearts of the Valdez family after he delivered them a pizza and struck up a conversation. Newey had no idea his friendly demeanor and obviously stellar work ethic would soon make him a TikTok star, nor did he expect an outpouring of donations from perfect strangers that relieve some of his burden.

Carlos Valdez shared the initial pizza delivery video, taken through the family's Nest doorbell, on TikTok about a week ago. "Hello, are you looking for some pizza?" Newey says when they answer the door, then chats with them for a while.


Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Working parents have always had the challenge of juggling career and kids. But during the pandemic, that juggling act feels like a full-on, three-ring circus performance, complete with clowns and rings of fire and flying elephants.

With millions of kids doing virtual learning, our routines and home lives have taken a dramatic shift. Some parents are trying to navigate working from home at the same time, some are trying to figure out who's going to watch over their kids while they work outside the home, and some are scrambling to find a new job because theirs got eliminated due to the pandemic. In addition to the logistical challenges, parents also have to deal with the emotional ups and downs of their kids, who are also dealing with an uncertain and altered reality, while also managing their own existential dread.

It's a whole freaking lot right now, honestly.

Keep Reading Show less