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Gen Z’s advice to make tech more inclusive

In a technology-forward world, it only makes sense that Detroit youth would have equitable access to computer science resources. This is the goal of the Kapor Center, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating more opportunities for historically marginalized communities in the tech ecosystem.

Kalisha Davis, project director of the Equitable Computer Science Curriculum Initiative, and Dr. Chanel Beebe, youth advisory board program advisor, were looking to build a youth advisory board that could change the landscape of computer science in Detroit. In the early stages of implementation, a collective strategy and round-up of seasoned adult leaders had formed, but it was Detroit youth the pair wanted to hear from.

Equity exists in recruitment

Dr. Chanel Beebe and Kalisha Davis, Kapor Center, listen to Gen Z strategists’ insights.

Listening to youth voices and reflecting their thoughts into action takes effort. But Davis and Beebe were ready to move their mission forward. They engaged in a Gen Z Design Session, a strategy workshop designed and spearheaded by youth in metro Detroit. Gen Z Design Sessions connect organizational leaders with youth strategist to solve pressing issues. The sessions are organized by The Skillman Foundation and facilitated by Jeremiah Steen.

With the Detroit-based student advisory board in its infancy, the youth strategists focused on the recruitment process. Questions regarding how students gained entry into the program, which schools students were getting sourced from, and student interest in computer science before joining appeared during the conversation.

Youth leaders advised Kapor Center to expand its recruitment to all sorts of students, not just those attending well-known Detroit high schools or those interested in computer programming.

“There are some inherent prerequisites in the sense that you already have to be science-minded and say, ‘I’m going to start coding now.’ I think there’s an aspect of ‘not everyone can join’,” said Willyne Smith, a member of The Skillman Foundation’s President’s Youth Council. “If the goal is to emphasize passion as it relates to computer science, then an aspect of the advertisement needs to serve a group that has not had access to these resources before.”

Graphic notes by Jasmin Smith

To diversify student engagement, youth leaders recommended that the organization leaders speak with students engaged in hobbies that could have similarities to computers science, including the arts and other tech-related activities.

Other suggestions presented:

  • Leverage a beta mode-inspired youth advisory board that allows members to mold the program as they see fit
  • Appoint youth to recruit their peers into programming and foster peer-to-peer mentorship
  • Focus a part of advertising towards youth who have never had experience in computer science but want to learn about it as an option for them
  • Appeal to a broader audience by designing programs that speak to youth with different interests. How could computer science intersect with other areas like social justice, storytelling, the arts?

Stay up to date with the impactful strategies Gen Z youth leaders have for local and statewide organizations via our reporting on skillman.org.

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