In the latest Around Town column, news about an East Palo Alto organization honored for addressing gaps in technology access and education during the pandemic, a new learning center for college and high school students and the seventh annual Congressional App Challenge.
BREAKING BARRIERS ... Over the last 16 months, East Palo Alto nonprofit StreetCode Academy has equipped community members with digital tools and skills they need to virtually communicate as they stay close to home during the pandemic. StreetCode was recently recognized as the Nonprofit of the Year in California's 13th Senate District, which is represented by Sen. Josh Becker.
"In any given year, tackling this issue would be challenging enough," he said in a July 29 press release. "Compound that with a once-in-a-century pandemic, and I can imagine it felt almost impossible." The nonprofit has conducted 20,000 hours of free technology classes, provided tech support to 2,500 students at the Ravenswood City School District and secured hundreds of free laptops for students. StreetCode now serves more than 5,500 people in the region and 1,000 people nationally.
"In so many ways this past year threatened to widen the gap that exists within Silicon Valley — the poverty in the shadow of wealth and no bridge between," StreetCode CEO Olatunde Sobomehin said in the release. "Yet in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, so many people stepped up to provide computers, internet access, technology education and a hope for a better future."
SUPPORTING STUDENTS ... College and high school students challenged by learning differences will have a new place where they can find assistance. Children's Health Council (CHC) and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation have joined forces to establish the Schwab Learning Center at CHC, which will open in Palo Alto in September.
The foundation has presented an endowment for the center at 650 Clark Way, where students are either referred or self-referred for the services, which include psychoeducational evaluations, mentoring, short-term therapy and community education. The assistance will be available either in person or online, depending on COVID-19 protocols, and financial aid will be offered to students.
"We are tremendously confident that the center will be in the right hands with CHC," investor and foundation founder Charles Schwab said in a statement. "There is such need in our community, so we look forward to working with CHC and seeing high school and university students thrive."
The center will focus on serving Stanford University students in its first year, then expand to high school students and other colleges and universities in the Bay Area in its second year. In the long run, the program expects to assist 400 to 500 students on an annual basis. CHC has selected Dr. Nicole Ofiesh to be the center's director starting this month. Her previous job was chief innovation officer and senior research scientist at the Potentia Institute.
TECH-MINDED … Students can enter the seventh annual Congressional App Challenge for the 18th Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. The House of Representatives began the contest eight years ago to promote innovation and engagement in STEM education fields.
"Since its creation in 2013, the Congressional App Challenge has been an extraordinary opportunity for students to think creatively and create innovative solutions to problems in our community. Last year we had many creative entries addressing needs during the pandemic and the pressing matters in our community, and I look forward to seeing what students will design this year. I encourage all students, regardless of their level of coding expertise, to use technology to build creative solutions to address the myriad of challenges we face today," Eshoo said.
Science, technology, engineering, and math are foundational for innovation, and the Congressional App Challenge encourages students, bolsters interest in STEM, and motivates students to pursue higher education and jobs in those fields, she said.
The challenge is open to all middle school and high school students who live in or are eligible to attend a public school located in the district. Students entering the competition must create a video explaining their app and what they learned through the competition process. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 1.
An appointed panel of academics, entrepreneurs, technology executives and other experts will judge the submitted apps. The winners will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. To apply, visit congressionalappchallenge.us.