Empowering girls of color with 21st century skills
As the technology sector continues to grow, organizations are taking a stand for inclusivity and diversity within the workforce. Recently, Microsoft collaborated with Hope for Youth, Inc. (HYPE), an Atlanta, Georgia based nonprofit organization providing programs for girls of color to further their education in technology fields, prepare them for a career to become future leaders, and bolster a healthy pipeline of diverse candidates for the professional technology workforce.
Of the schools that HYPE works with, more than 50 percent do not offer computer science courses. On top of that, only 4 percent of Black women are taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam, according to HYPE. Changing these statistics is one of HYPE’s main priorities, “to make sure that our future is better than our past.”
Extending empowerment beyond education
The HYPE Project program is a 12-week course in which students focus on either front-end or back-end web development, culminating in a project that they present at the program’s graduation. The curriculum is hands-on and interactive, allowing for creativity and the idea that there isn’t one way to solve a problem.
HYPE doesn’t stop at education. From the HYPE Project to Summer Coding Camps, Leadership Academy, and International Experience, each program offered through HYPE brings students into the world where real opportunities for growth exist. In 2021, HYPE’s students came from 67 different schools and 25 counties in Georgia.
The Leadership Academy program takes high school students through 10 weeks of professional development focused on career, leadership, and workforce skills in preparation for applying to internships. During the first year of Leadership Academy, HYPE placed 70 percent of students in paid summer internships.
“We take an approach that is holistic and more than just exposing girls to technology,” HYPE founder Kristina Smith-Newton said. “We want girls to build community, establish confidence in themselves, see and meet and connect with role models in tech, and dream of bigger things for their future.”
Ultimately, Smith-Newton hopes that girls who go through the HYPE programs become role models themselves for future generations and girls coming up behind them.
“There is no one unique path that you have to take to be in a tech career,” Smith-Newton said. “We try to expose girls to all of those different pathways and connect them with people who look like them who have traveled through various journeys to be where they are.”
HYPE recognizes that some girls are on pathways that require a little extra help. With contributions from partners like Microsoft, HYPE offers four $2,500 “Future of Tech” scholarships to those who need it most.
“We believe that by addressing the social and psychological barriers that keep girls from STEM, and by establishing community and connecting girls to people who look like them, that we can change the face of what technology looks like,” Smith-Newton said.
“We believe that by addressing the social and psychological barriers that keep girls from STEM, and by establishing community and connecting girls to people who look like them, that we can change the face of what technology looks like.”—Kristina Smith-Newton, HYPE founder