By Ukee Washington
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – President Obama has been encouraging high school students to major in engineering, science, or math. Now, a group of minority tech professionals has decided to take that one step further by giving weekend lessons to the next generation.
In a computer lab at DeVry University in Center City, students are practicing the finer points of computer coding.
Daneel Douglas, a senior at Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter High School, joked, “They say there are two different kinds of people in this world: those that know binary and those that don’t. And I can say I know binary!”
Every computer runs on zeros and ones, but someone has to tell it what to do. That’s what these students are learning at this free programming class held every Saturday morning by tech professional organization BDPA, which stands for Black Data Processing Associates.
“We don’t think they’re going to be programmers over the 44-week course,” said Eileen Gadsden, president of BDPA Philadelphia. “What we want them to do is like it enough that they choose it in college, and then make it a profession.”
BDPA Philadelphia encourages STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.
Phillip Easton, a senior at Central High School, said, “I want to either be an accountant or go into computer science.”
“I wasn’t really into computers at first, but then I noticed it can get me a lot of opportunities,” said Jasmine Beard, a junior at Central High School.
Jerry Wargo, the campus president of DeVry University Philadelphia, said, “It’s just a perfect fit for them to come in on Saturday morning, when most kids are sleeping, and practice and learn.”
Tech professionals volunteer to teach the students, who help each other, too.
Norman Morrison, a senior at Philadelphia Military Academy, said, “If you need help coding something, you just ask your neighbor.”
James Gadsden went through the program in high school. “It’s kind of, in a way, like school. You have to make sure you keep up with your assignments,” he said.
Now, James uses those skills at the Community College of Philadelphia, where he is studying mass media communications, thanks at least in part to those Saturday mornings in the lab.
The students will also compete at a national technology competition later this year.
So far, 100 percent of the students in the program have gone on to college.
To find out more about BDPA, visit: www.BDPAPhilly.org