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The White House Tech Inclusion Champions of Change!

An invitation to the White House is a big deal.  Being honored at a White House event is an even bigger deal.  Last week I was lucky enough to attend a White House event honoring eleven people as Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion, several of whom were community members.  All of them are doing interesting things to improve the educational opportunities for women and underrepresented minors in computing and related disciplines, most focusing on K-12 education.

Some, like Jeffries Epps, the Director of Information Technology at the Richmond County Schools in North Carolina, and Seth Reichelson, a teacher at Lake Brantley High School, are working within the school system to increase student interest in computing.  Others have developed supplemental programs to reach groups that are outside the typical programmer stereotype such as Black Girls CODEdigitalundivided and iUrban Teen Tech.  Others are aiming to increase general participation in computing regardless of age, race or income including CoderDojo NYC,ScriptEd, and Developers for Good.

One of the most interesting honorees to me was Carlos Bueno, an engineer at Facebook, who has written a children’s novel about computer science and critical thinking.  Carlos pointed out that computer science is a relatively new field that is messy, filled with jargon and excess complexity.  He reminded us that concepts regarded as simple facts today like zero, negative numbers, and pi, were once strange and difficult concepts.  His book, Lauren Ipsum, cleared away the incidental details of writing code to help kids learn to think like a programmer.

In addition to hearing the wisdom and stories of so many terrific people and organizations, it was great to see the U.S. government’s commitment to the cause of STEM education, and computing in particular.  Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, emphasized the administration’s commitment to advance STEM education as a key imperative and the inclusion of women, girls and underrepresented minors as a critical element.  Todd Park, who has the coolest title ever, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, closed the event with comments that were optimistic, determined and quite frankly, inspiring.  It was a great close to a wonderful event.

Those being recognized were:

Kimberly Bryant, Founder & Executive Director of Black Girls CODE

Carlos Bueno, Engineer at Facebook, writer of a children’s book about computer science, Lauren Ipsum

Jeffries Epps, Director of Information Technology, Richmond County Schools, NC

Ruthe Farmer, Director of Strategic Initiatives, National Center for Women & IT

Kathryn Finney, Founder & Managing Director, digitalundivided

Theresa Freet, Organizer, Developers for Good

Rebecca Garcia, Co-Founder, CoderDojo, NYC

Kevin Mitchell, Lead Volunteer, ScriptEd

Deena Pierott, Founder & Executive Director, iUrban Teen Program

Seth Reichelson, Teacher, Lake Brantley High School

Cheryl Swanier, Associate Professor, Fort Valley State University’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

The stories and wisdom of each of these people make me confident that it is possible to make a difference and impact millions of lives.


Watch the event here.