- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2021

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) have announced separate plans to provide opportunities for underserved youths to learn and develop skills in STEM fields.

Beginning next year, the Boys & Girls Clubs will participate in the Everyone Can Code project that will allow young people to create applications for Apple computers, smartphones and other devices using the tech giant’s Swift programming language.

Jimmy Works, director of STEM programs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, said the youth organization already offers courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to “about 1,000 kids annually” and aims to double that number.

He said Apple’s participation will introduce a new and popular programming language to the youngsters, adding that the company is donating equipment to facilitate the training.

“Most of our clubs have devices on hand [that are] older models,” Mr. Works said. “A lot of our equipment is somewhat outdated.”

The donation of tablet computers “is really transformative. It allows us to have the latest technology, and provide access to not only just new iPads but also the [Swift] curriculum,” he said. “I think our kids are going to benefit tremendously. This is going to allow our kids to dream and compete with their peers.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs have 16 locations in the D.C. metropolitan area and serve 21,000 youngsters in grades K-12.

Meanwhile, UNCF says it has partnered with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a lobbying group representing more than 350 leading tech firms, to help expand its tech-related efforts among its network of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which last year announced it would add a “racial justice and equity portfolio” to its work, said it would “leverage its resources and assets and relationships with its member companies to facilitate HBCU student internships and identify career opportunities for students.”

“We’ve been working in the Valley for quite a few years, with Google and some other tech companies,” said Chad Womack, UNCF’s senior director of national STEM programs and initiatives. “But the partnership with Silicon Valley Leadership Group is especially exciting because it gives us a way to speak to the entire Silicon Valley tech community and not just one company at a time.”

“Everybody has something valuable to contribute. And part of that is bringing one’s whole self to the job, to the career, to the industry,” Mr. Womack said. “Ultimately, diversity, equity [and] inclusion means we have a diverse set of people, communities and opportunities that provide unique opportunities for them to have equity in what’s being developed, produced, and marketed and that we’re as inclusive as possible.”

UNCF’s goal is to make sure “our students get to and through college in a STEM major” and create an environment where “our students can be on either side of what we would call the deal table” as employees or entrepreneurs, he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the United Negro College Fund, which is still the formal name of the organization.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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