Written by Ron Summers, Code Nation CEO
Last month, I began a new chapter in my life and career. This day was marked by a new professional title within a new organization, and a new work setting with new faces. Some of the variables may seem new, but they are also very comfortable and familiar.
In fact, the fight for student empowerment and equity is not new to me. I began this work during my days as an optimistic and restless college student on the executive board of SUNY Binghamton University’s Black Student Union. I continued as a teacher in the classrooms of August Martin High School determined to bring entrepreneurial, design, and computational thinking to my community. I carried this purpose to the campuses of Columbia University, Long Island University, and Cornell Tech University as co-founder of the NYC Generation Tech incubator, focused on teaching young people how to think like startup founders and disrupt the concept of who makes solutions to our community’s challenges.
Leading innovation, improving equitable access and student outcomes, and building system-level solutions are also familiar to me. I am a proud member of the early group of NYC educators that were pushing for CS education before it garnered the rightful attention and urgency it has now. Many warriors from that group joined the NYCDOE CS4All team, where we created many firsts and broke quite a few things as we learned how to deliver CS education at scale. We changed the fabric of NYC public schools and made exposure, access, and belonging the expectation, instead of simply an enticing headline for the funding community. I left NYCDOE with over 90% of schools providing instruction in computer science and computer technology.
On the other side of that success is the reality that we have much work to do. Access is at 90%, but only 9% of our high school students are actually enrolled in that standalone or subject-area integrated CS offerings. The work of student empowerment and equitable access to opportunity is my life’s work and the driving force behind 20 years of experiences, decisions, and learning. The next chapter in my servant journey led me to Code Nation.
I joined the Code Nation team for three specific reasons:
- Support a national effort to build authentic experiences and high-impact pathways for students that solve for the unique challenges faced by women, nonbinary people, and students of color in every regional corner of the US. There is no silver-bullet for CS exposure, access, and belonging. Patience and boldness is required to craft human-centered supports that solve system-level challenges.
- Work in a DEI-centered organization, where equity is lived on a daily basis. Equitable practice is not a checkbox and students know when you are doing just that. Students know when you live equity and when you are in it for more than “CS access.” We want them to win, socially, emotionally, and economically.
- And to simply change the world. Code Nation wants to change the world. Code Nation has a secret sauce that has been simmering for 10 years. It’s been a pretty good sauce with some notable impact made during that time. We’ve served 7,485 students since 2012. Imagine what a few additional, intentionally placed spices could do to multiply that sphere of impact? The possibilities are endless. Code Nation will change how non-profits support tech pathways and career-connected learning. We aspire to be the global leader in experiences that lead to student success in college and tech careers.
This past month has been all about listening, learning, asking questions, and listening some more. Code Nation is full of passionate staff who are educators, innovators, advocates, and community builders. Whether they provide direct programming to students or indirectly support the empowerment of our students, everyones here gives their all in service of student success every single day.
I look forward to my next 30 days filled with student chats in classrooms across Chicago, New York City, and the Bay Area. I will also prioritize hearing the stories of our alumni and thanking our dedicated volunteer community for their service. I encourage you to follow along on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
Maybe this all feels familiar because I am home.