Computer Science Education Week, held December 4-10 this year, is an annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for their equity, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners in the field. Commemorated across the country – this week gives Code Nation the opportunity to reflect on our own contributions to the field. This year’s CS Ed Week theme is CS Heroes – so we asked two of our leaders about their own journeys and the heroes that inspired them.

It’s not often that we slow down enough to reflect on the key moments and people who have made a lasting impact on our own journeys. I’ve charted a path in education that is grounded in a love of art, community, and people – which has given me a unique lens as a leader in CS education.

I’m privileged to have grown up in a household and community in Queens, NY that told me Black is beautiful. I thank my parents for providing that foundation at home. I thank Principal Eleanor Andrew for instilling that in me as a student at PS 132, an elementary school in the NYC Public School system. She is not a CS pioneer or inventor, but she showed me what passionate leadership looks like and that how you serve matters. Mrs. Andrew was unapologetic and strong. She hired teachers who looked like me, who showed real care as adults of color to students of color. And most importantly for my impressionable childhood, left a lasting image Black excellence and Black leadership.

In high school, I had a life changing experience in Mr. Schwartz’s Drama Club. His intuition to encourage a shy and timid kid named Ron to perform the lead role in a very 90’s New York take on Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night (we infused hip hop and the music industry into the classic play). Because of that experience, I can speak on any stage. It taught me that the lights are never too bright for you to stand out front and be brave for the communities I serve.

Computer science was not part of the first 17 years of my life. It was not a subject taught in school. It wasn’t presented as a field of study or as a career.

I taught myself how to code in the late 90’s because I wanted to express myself on the internet. I wrote my first line of code because I discovered that HTML is what made websites, so I had to learn it if I wanted to create a website that looked better than a Yahoo Geocities template. I learned how to code late at night using my family’s first-ever personal computer, but it wasn’t until the middle of my freshman year at Binghamton University that I heard the term “computer science.”

CS Education Week and the efforts of the CS access movement has given more Black, brown, and women students something I didn’t have: exposure to CS, access to CS, and inclusion and representation in CS. I often think about how many brilliant people from my elementary, middle, and high school years would have thrived in tech careers if we were exposed to CS during the 1980s and 1990s.

Here are the CS heroes of 2023 who I believe deserve appreciation for their impact on generations of students:

Thank you teachers. Every year you find ways to integrate CS education into your practice and lead our efforts to provide equitable access.

Thank you school and district leaders, and colleges and universities. You’ve made equitable access to CS education a priority and have stepped forward to build pathways to tech-driven careers.

Thank you to every human, coalition, and organization who is out doing the work everyday. The work of organization’s like All Star Code, Code Nation and Marcy Lab matter. The work of city and state CS4All efforts matter.

Thank you to every advocate who see’s equitable access to CS education learning as a right, because computational thinking can be a path to economic mobility.

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