The Rev. Jesse Jackson is continuing his discussion on Blacks in tech, but on May 27, instead of talking to tech executives, he spoke to students during an assembly at Oakland Technical High School.
He discussed the Intel and OUSD’s partnership, which includes a $5 million pledge to expand STEM programming at the Oakland Tech and McClymonds high school campuses. He encouraged students to embrace STEM education and the job potential in Silicon Valley.
“Silicon Valley is right in your backyard. We want to see you have successful careers in the tech industry right in your backyard,” Jackson said. “We want to change the course of Silicon Valley and expand the base.”
Following his remarks, Jackson presented $15,000 in college scholarships to Oakland students.
Investments in computer science programming have been a long time coming, according to Emmanuel Onyeador, instructor in Oakland Tech’s computer science academy.
“This is an effort that we have been doing for years and it has gradually come into fruition. We started the computer academy in 1996, and it’s been a long fight to broaden representation of underrepresented groups –and that hasn’t happened until recently,” he said.
Onyeador says Oakland Tech’s computer science program has been severely under-resourced, which has made it difficult to attract students and cultivate their interest in the field.
“We have just one computer science class going on here. As a result of these limitations, our kids are being shut out from creating the apps of the future,” he said.
Onyeador says he’s excited about the Intel pledge and looks forward to helping build the capacity of Tech’s computer science program.
Contributing writer Kia Croom is a published journalist with 10 years of experience writing for publications in California and the Southeast. Follow her on Twitter @newsbykiac or email her at kianews2011 (at) gmail.com.
Limited STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and computer science programming is a district-wide problem. Ideally, Intel’s funding will remediate disparities by creating a pipeline for diverse students interested in pursuing careers in tech. The program, which will be offered as early as fall 2015, has a goal of recruiting 600 seniors.
Some parents and staff wonder if the recruitment effort will be successful, considering many students aren’t aware of the computer science programs offered at the Oakland High and Oakland Tech campuses. When asked if recruiting 600 seniors to participate in the project is an ambitious goal, Oakland Unified School District Communications Manager Joel Danoy had this to say:
“When we think about our kids, we should set the bar high. The interest is there. We’re providing the resources, support and curriculum that can support the kids’ interest and desire to learn. We are committed to raising the level of interest.”
ABC7 quoted Anthony Johnson, one of the students who was able to talk directly with Rev. Jackson: “I just feel he’s still trying to fight because there are still problems that are going on. There is still stuff in technology we should be more aware of. He is just trying to open up our eyes.”Danoy says the funding permits the district to offer more courses and increase the number of STEM instructors, particularly at Oakland Tech and McClymonds High, which currently have one computer science instructor.
Oakland Tech High School student Dionica Ruiz noted some stubborn obstacles: “I think mostly we don’t see ourselves represented as scientists as we grow up, but also the environment of a class that’s male dominant” can discourage female students, she said.
Rev. Jackson is determined to succeed. ABC7 reports another means he wants to use to bring far more Blacks into technology careers and businesses: “We want 1,000 churches with lab techs in churches,” he added.