How do you bring Computer Science education to students in schools that don’t have the resources or budget to provide it?
“Technology is where he wants to be … he learned what he could on his own, but then he didn’t know where to go from there. He didn’t even know how to go from there.” This is how Tammy Moore described the challenges her son Jeremy faced as he tried to turn his interest in computers into something that might help him in the future.
Jeremy is a high school student living in Beattyville, a small town in Lee County, Kentucky. Beattyville is home to about 1,200 people and an annual Woolly Worm Festival every October. (The Woolly Worm is a type of caterpillar that folklore holds may have the ability to predict winter weather, similar to the groundhog).
Like many rural areas across America, Beattyville has struggled in recent years. “The economy here is very bad … it’s not where you want to go for work,” said Moore. But there’s a real sense of community pride, too. “You take the good with the bad. I just love it here and this is where I wanted to raise my kids,” she noted.
In the past, Jeremy didn’t think much about attending college. According to his mom, his grades were “less than stellar.” All that changed when he started taking computer science classes through TEALS, a Microsoft YouthSpark program. TEALS – Technology Education And Literacy in Schools – brings computer science learning to classrooms that don’t have the resources to do so. Instruction is delivered by volunteers who work in the IT sector including Microsoft employee volunteers.
In Beattyville, Jeremy’s third period computer science class is taught remotely using Microsoft Lync by Isaac Wilson, a Microsoft engineer in Redmond, Wash.
Why is Microsoft putting engineers in schools to teach computer science? Because we recognize the urgent need to provide more qualified talent in computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields in the United States. The TEALS program, which originally started in Washington State, has now expanded to support schools in California, Kentucky, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia and the District of Columbia this academic year.
“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith told the New York Times recently, speaking about the shortage of computer science graduates. The shortage impacts technology companies and the global economy. In a recent speech at the 41st Annual Economic Forecast Conference, Smith pointed out that of 42,000 high schools in the U.S. only 2,103 offer AP computer science courses.
TEALS and other programs that are part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative are designed to give young people access to education, employment and entrepreneurship.
As for Jeremy, he’s now on his school’s honor roll and is thinking about attending college and becoming a software engineer. On TEALs and his YouthSpark experience, he said, simply: “It’s changed my life.”