In 1995, when Melissa & Gary Trujillo, Jr. determined that families in South Phoenix did not have access to technology, which drastically reduced their opportunity to develop critical skills to enhance their educational opportunities —they decided to SHOW UP. Joining forces with others in the community they raised $1,000,000 to create the Roosevelt Community Technology Center (RCTC) which opened its doors in May 1996 to provide free access to technology and the internet and is still serving the community today!
Once the technology center was open- Melissa and Gary noticed another barrier to the community. Youth did not have access to college-going education options and so in 2002 they formed the BE A LEADER FOUNDATION which today serves over 3,400 students in Maricopa providing them with support to get to post-secondary options.
A few weeks ago while moderating a tech panel someone posed the question of “Is the #yesPHX community really doing enough to be considered the MOST GENEROUS?” As I sat there in my “Generous” #yesPHX State 48 shirt and knowing that I have spent much of my recent career connecting tech and startups with nonprofits and community projects trying to move the needle-- I wanted so badly to say YES. But sadly I knew the true answer was NO….not yet. Not at all.
Especially not related to youth.
I have had many passionate debates with many people in #yesPHX on how to encourage youth to stay engaged with their education and especially if we even need to promote going to college anymore. One of the most shared quotes in technology education right now is by Phoenix local — Jamie Casap, Google Education Evangelist who said, “Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what problems they want to solve.”
His reasoning is solid. We don’t even know what jobs we are preparing today’s youth for and therefore — it is more important for us to teach them how to think. He is 100% on point.
At the same time — I think we all know enough having been teenagers ourselves that we can’t be going into schools and telling youth that post-secondary education doesn’t matter. I don’t know about you all — but my high school focus and performance would have looked a lot different if I didn’t think I was preparing for something next that required me to put in a little effort. While there are exceptions to the rule, for most youth today — having some form of post-secondary education is going to be what makes them employable. Projection studies are showing that by the year 2025, 65% of all jobs are going to require some form of post-secondary education. Not necessarily college- but SOMETHING.
At a TEAM AZ dinner last year, we focused on education and the overwhelming feedback was that the group realizes it is a problem that we cannot necessarily fix because there are so many parts involved.
However- as a startup and tech community — we also cannot simply stand on the sidelines while the Department of Education in AZ fails to figure it out.
There are literally thousands of approaches trying to solve the STEM/STEAM talent pipeline problem — some backed by large foundations, others by universities — lots of money is being spent to develop solutions. But I am here to tell you that regardless of the source — all of the research contains one common thread…and it’s something super simple that we can all do.
Youth need us to simply SHOW UP.
This is such a glaringly obvious common theme among every study on this topic that I slightly shocked that these research institutions haven’t stopped funding the studies entirely and instead and just start promoting the solution.
IT IS YOU.
Studies across every segment of the talent pipeline shows one thing — if kids can’t see it, they can’t be it. How do you decide you are interested in code, or tech, or startups if you have never met anyone who does that? And how do your parents help you network in a way to help you meet the right people to get into that field- if they don’t know anyone who works in that field or space?
The single greatest factor in determining if youth get engaged in tech or startups is having met someone who does that job. Even better — meeting someone who does that who has something in common with them — be it gender, race, or sometimes liking the same video game or Japanese anime character.
While these research groups spend all this time on study after study — the craziest part of the research is that it doesn’t take more than a 5 min interaction with a caring adult to shift a youth’s perspective of themselves for a lifetime.
THOUSANDS OF STUDIES. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
5 MIN. 1 ADULT WHO OPENS UP THEIR EYES TO A PATH.
As a startup mindset leader — I have been BETA testing this theory before I started a “product launch”. One of my greatest joys is when youth that I meet at various events connect with me on LinkedIn listing their title as THE FUTURE, or SOFTWARE DEVELOPER IN TRAINING after attending a workshop with me. I know then that they got something out of it and I also know- I will be able to connect them going forward to whoever they need to meet for whatever comes next and follow their paths to awesome.
I am personally on a mission to tell as many youth as I can in Arizona that they are the solutions to all of our problems and then connect them with the right people to ignite their passions even further.
This is why during Phoenix Startup Week — you will often see me with high school students parading them around like VIPs introducing them to all the major players. I know this seems “cute” to a lot of you at first — but the best part for me is watching a 15 year old impress a local VC with their knowledge and then find out later that they have been offered an internship that then led to their first junior developer job. I thought it was going to take us 5 years to get CodeDay youth into real jobs as developers at tech companies….and it took 2 — mostly because I think that our local tech community operates from a growth mentality and they know that the best way to eventually have the talent they want is to develop it themselves by providing open opportunities for developers in progress.
So now it is time to kick this up a notch and start to reach critical mass.
I am challenging the entire #yesPHX community to take 1 action between now and Phoenix Startup Week to DO SOME GOOD #DSG and #SHOWUP for youth. And I literally mean-- just show up, wear your startup shirt and talk to youth about what you do. It is that simple.
I know you all are busy--- but it’s kind of like that saying that the time to plant a tree was yesterday. If you want to have the talent you need for your growing ventures in 10 years —that plan needed to start before you thought of your idea. Yes — we can blame the universities or brain drain for the talent leaving or not being prepared--- but as an innovation community I think we need to point our fingers in the direction of progress — which starts with ourselves. I agree we are NOT yet doing enough to be the most generous until we have all shown up.
Talent leaves cities because they don’t feel connected to them and that isn’t going to be fixed by a university or an economic development organization. It gets fixed by normal people like you and me showing up to 4th and 5th grade classrooms and telling kids they have a place in our ecosystem and that it is a place of leadership. And then remaining a point of contact for them as though they are any other leader we network with in the ecosystem.
So since I’ve challenged you all-- I am also going to make it super easy by providing some opportunities.
So here is my SHOW UP list for #yesPHX for the next quarter:
(All of the links include sign up information to make it super easy for you)
BALF Steps to Success event: Sunday October 22, 2017
Be a Leader Foundation hosts this annual walk and success fair in downtown Phoenix. I have this vision of having about 30–50 startup/techies there in their tshirts to walk side by side with the youth and their families. While the walk is free — I am asking you of course to donate to support to their mission, but I am hoping you both donate and SHOW UP. You could also have one of your team members join their 500 club — and mentor a youth in the program. The club meets monthly and has networking events with incredible speakers and local topics of interest related to education. They are also always looking for career speakers for their monthly workshops and companies to provide shadow opportunities during spring break. If you decide to come to this event- please wear your shirt and DM me on Slack so you can be in the group photo.
TEALS is a Microsoft Philanthropy that I helped with some introductions to the Phoenix market a few years ago. Their goal is to get computer science in every classroom. They do this by bringing developers into classrooms to teach AP Computer Science which is not normally offered by the schools. Every large tech company in Arizona should have at least one employee doing this program as a way of supporting the ecosystem growth.
CodeDay: Nov 11–12 (then Feb, May)
Obviously —CodeDay is near and dear to my heart. Working along side the developer community we grew it from just 25 kids to more than 350 and then realized that 150–200 was ideal. This 24 hour idea marathon for youth — this event always needs mentors and volunteers. It happens 3 times a year — Nov, Feb, and May. Every company who sends volunteers tells us that this is their favorite event to mentor for. You can pop in for an hour, to lead a workshop or to stay the entire time. This is a great event for startup teams who love the art of the process of building something. There are some teams already using agile and doing some pretty impressive programming — all the way to 8 and 9 year olds who don’t even know what code is — and then bust out their first game BUBBLE GUM NINJA.
Phoenix Code Academy : On-going
is part of the Phoenix Union High School district and operates as a magnet program for high school youth interested in coding. They did an incredible job of including the local tech community in the design of their program and curriculum and want tech leaders to come into the classroom to teach. This can be done in both short and long term.
Arizona Cyber Warfare Range: On-going
If you want to know anything about cybersecurity — this is your go to starting point. Their goal is to develop a well-trained workforce versed in the continuous improvement process for cyber security. This is done through self-paced training, organic mentoring and a real-world experience. They have a ton of events and are always looking for volunteers, mentors as they are 100% volunteer run.
CO+HOOTS Foundation: On-going
Offers Youth Startup Weekends several times a year and various opportunities for youth to engage directly with the startup community. Their calendar moves quickly like everything else at CO+HOOTS so be sure to follow them on social to stay up to date on opportunities.
Seedspot Next: On-going
Brings social entrepreneurship training to high school students through real-life launching of companies. This program is now being implemented on campuses so the youth don’t have to go to Seedspot to be part of this program.
Girls in Tech Phoenix: On-going
It is even more crucial for women to SHOW UP and Girls in Tech Phoenix has launched a mentoring program to do so. Sometimes I think in this area women think that you have to be a developer — but the true beauty of Girls in Tech is that they are showcasing all of the ways that women are engaged in tech companies.
Become a Jedi Mentor for the AZ Tech Council CSO Program: School year, Summer and Fall Institutes
The Chief Science Officer program is an Arizona based initiative where 6th to 12th grade students are elected by their peers to represent their school for STEM and innovation. As on- campus STEM Ambassadors, CSOs serve the student body as the voice for STEM. They create a campus action plan and apply these skills throughout the school year. But it will be difficult to succeed on their own so the SciTech Jedis are vital for success of the program. These trusted advisors provide visibility to STEM education and career paths.
They are currently looking for Jedi’s for the following high schools:
Camelback, Carl Hayden, Central, Maryvale, Metro Tech High School, and South Mountain.
I will continue saying this and shouting it from the rooftops until people hear me. The Phoenix ecosystem is uniquely primed to be the ecosystem who gets the diversity balance right. And that starts with kids who don’t look like us. So if you are male — it means females. If you are white, that means a person of color. If you live in the suburbs, that means someone in a more urban area. We should all be on the path of mentoring those behind us who are cognitively diverse from us.
If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. And for our future youth to get educated in the ways you need them to be for your current/future ventures, or to solve our future problems in society — — the only thing they need is for us to do is SHOW UP.
I am going to commit to posting a list of opportunities like this once a quarter. If you take advantage of them — and DO SOME GOOD aka #DSG please include the following hashtags on your pictures:
#yesPHX #SHOWUP #DSG
Kristin Romaine is CEO of Like the Lettuce Consulting — INNOVATING ABUNDANT VISIONS FOR A HAPPY HUMANITY. She believes that #DSG is just as important as #GSD if we want to be the most generous & #scatterjoy.