December 5, 2023

Every Saturday morning, University of Miami freshman Anthony Davenport leaves his dorm on the Coral Gables campus and gets on the Miami-Dade County Metrorail line toward the Brownsville neighborhood. Davenport, a freshman computer science major from Washington Township, New Jersey, is the first facilitator of the new “Accelerate Tech” computer science pilot program that has been incorporated into Saturday school programming at Earlington Heights Elementary School.

Participating students in the program took a computational thinking assessment that informed which version of a computer Science the curriculum they receive. Most of the students are engaged in Google Computer Science (CS) The first curriculum that uses the block coding language Scratch for presentation computer Science while others may be placed in JavaScript-based curricula. Dr.  Marcus BrightDr. Marcus Bright

The pilot project is aimed at accelerating the level of readiness of youth to acquire the skills that will make them more economically viable in the emerging technology economy and ecosystem that is flourishing in South Florida. In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, having the skills and knowledge for a career in technology can open up a range of opportunities and provide a stable and fulfilling career path.

Miami Herald recently published an article on how anchor higher education institutions in the area, such as Florida International University, Florida Memorial University and Miami Dade College, among others, are expanding their programs in an effort to better prepare local residents to work in the region’s burgeoning technology sector .

So that more students are prepared to enter these programs at the postsecondary level; more intentional programming must be introduced at the K-12 level in areas such as computer science. Two of the major barriers to the initiation and implementation of computer science in schools in areas such as Brownsville are the need for computer science content and the availability of instructors who have the knowledge base to properly guide student development and learning in computer science.

College students who major in computer science and computer engineering often have the skills necessary to help K-12 students navigate computer coding programs. The primary problem with connecting computer-talented college students with K-12 schools is logistical. These students often have a busy schedule of classes and other activities during the week, and their campuses may be located a considerable distance from the school in need of their services.

This is the case at Davenport and Earlington Heights elementary schools, but the Saturday school model being implemented is a potential blueprint for expanded flexibility and availability for schools to incorporate new content and teaching methods.

Much of the credit for installing the pilot program at Earlington Heights Elementary School goes to the school’s visionary principal Jackson Nicholas and gifted assistant principal Isahuri Cathey, among others. Recognizing the need and appreciating this kind of program, they acted immediately to secure the services of students like Davenport.

Davenport’s first exposure to computer science was when he went to a robotics camp in high school that his mother took him to. He attended the first week of the camp and liked it so much that he signed up for the second week. He especially enjoyed doing the coding that was required to move the robots, and this opened up the world of computer science to the point that it laid the groundwork for his eventual major when he entered the University of Miami.

The excitement and enlightenment he experienced as a high school student is a big part of what motivates him to make the two-hour round trip every Saturday morning. He wants to help facilitate that experience for the next generation of students. Davenport expressed that “there is so much you can do with computer science. Not everyone knows or understands this. I want to expose younger students to the idea that you can take anything you put your mind to and make it happen with this tool.”

Through his stellar service, Davenport has risen to the next level of prominence by helping to open up new technical career paths for students who might not otherwise be exposed to them. His actions reflect that he understands his influential role and that it can transcend his individual success. He can use his expertise to create opportunities for many others.

By initiating and investing in programs like this one at Earlington Heights Elementary School, we can do more to ensure our workforce is equipped with the skills and abilities needed to foster innovation and create new technology-driven solutions to societal challenges. By expanding access to technical education and creating clear career paths, we can help build a fairer society and provide greater opportunities for upward mobility.

Dr. Marcus Bright is a social impact facilitator and author of Brighter Ways Forward: Reflections on Sports, Tech, and Socioeconomic Mobility

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