A new technology education program at the University of the District of Columbia will help 100 minority middle school boys learn 3-D modeling and app development and will expose them to future career opportunities in the tech sector.
The Verizon Minority Male Makers Program will bring a free, four-week summer boot camp to Washington, aiming to give rising sixth- through eighth-graders in the District’s schools a chance to get a boost in areas in which they are widely underrepresented. And because technology jobs are increasingly abundant — and the skilled workforce in the United States isn’t keeping pace — it could encourage students into a field in which they have an increased chance to excel.
The program is open to students in the D.C. Public Schools as well as charters and private schools and will mirror similar programs in other parts of the country, having launched in 2015 at four historically black colleges and universities throughout the nation. It has now expanded to 12 cities.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced last year that the D.C. school system would invest $20 million in a variety of programs to boost academic achievements among minority males. Black and Latino boys made up about 43 percent of the students enrolled in D.C. public schools last year.
“We know that our males of color face significant hurdles,” Henderson said. “Our goal is to give children in D.C. opportunities that inspire greatness.”
UDC will provide facilities, three faculty members, and more than a dozen minority college and graduate students to serve as mentors to the middle-schoolers during a two-year span. The middle school students will be scheduled to attend two four-week summer camps and will experience programming throughout two academic years.
The mentors will be in regular contact with the middle school students, and UDC faculty members will be available for tutoring when necessary. There also will be monthly workshops for the students to keep their programming skills fresh and meet professionals in the industry.
“The success is built on the pipelines,” said Anthony Lewis, the vice president of Verizon’s Mid-Atlantic region. “If you are going to invest in a particular university, you want to make sure they already have the existing relationships with their communities.”
Lewis announced the D.C. chapter of the program, which will launch this summer, at a Tuesday morning news conference program at UDC’s student center alongside Henderson and UDC President Ronald Mason Jr. Verizon delivered an oversize check for $395,000 to fund the program.
Henderson said she would alert principals to recruit students, specifically targeting schools that focus on science and technology, such as Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast Washington.
All students, regardless of their academic record, can participate in the program. If more than 100 students apply, UDC will try to accommodate them.
The application deadline is June 15, and the summer program will run from June 27 to July 22.
Nearly 70 percent of the program’s participants last year had an increased interest in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — careers, according to Verizon data.
Antonne Richardson, 12, participates in the Minority Male Makers in Baltimore and said he created a Web program with his mentor that allows users to input a recipe and get a healthier version in return.
“I think what we landed on is very cool,” he said. “It felt really awesome for something you had an idea for to come to life.”