“What do you do when you get frustrated while coding?”
“If you didn’t work at Comcast, where would you work?”
“What’s the hardest part of developing an app?”
These are just a few of the questions ninth graders from Somerton’s George Washington High School eagerly asked of four Comcast employees on Tuesday morning. The panelists represented the telecommunications giant’s BENgineers and TECHWomen employee groups, and focused their discussion on what a career in tech is really like. Before the panel, the students got to see where they worked during a tour of the Comcast Technology Center.
These 35 students are part of a pilot program at their school for Black and Latinx students who are interested in computer science and technology led by Heights Philadelphia. Heights, with a mission to connect Black, brown and first-generation students to career and college opportunities, is the result of education nonprofits Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholars merging in December 2022.
The Tuesday event also kicked off a three-year partnership between Comcast and Heights, through which Comcast committed $1 million to Heights as a Founding Inveniam Equity Technology Partner.
This commitment is part of $4.3 million in grants that Comcast gave out to 30 Philly based nonprofits at the end of 2022, per the company. These grants are part of Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to supporting digital equity.
“As a media and technology company that is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, we understand the inequities and barriers students of color face when pursuing an education and career in an increasingly digital workforce,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, EVP and chief diversity officer at the Comcast Corporation and president of Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, in a statement. “Through this partnership with Heights, we will help to equip Philadelphia students with the digital skills and readiness needed to be successful and have a future of unlimited possibilities.”
Sean Vereen, co-president of Heights Philadelphia, said the funding from Comcast will allow Heights to expand its programs in the 19 high schools and four middle schools it partners with in the School District of Philadelphia. That includes an expanded technology career advising team, tech-related internship opportunities, and dual enrollment opportunities for college credits or certifications in the computer science and technology fields.
Comcast’s support will also help the org gain other “founding partners,” he said.
Sara Woods, co-president of Heights, said the investment company Hirtle Callaghan also committed $1 million as a Founding Inveniam Equity Partner in Financial Services in 2022 to expand Heights’ career development programs in finance and investment. The nonprofit’s leaders want to see corporations in a variety of industries make similar commitments to create even more pathways for economic mobility for Heights students.
Going forward, Vereen said, these partnerships translate to more opportunities for students to interact with people in professional fields. He said it was clear from the panel and Q&A with Comcast’s BENgineers and TECHWomen that students are curious about what it takes to make it in tech. Heights is trying to create clear pathways for students to enter the industry.
“These big buildings and these big institutions are for our kids, too,” he said, referring to the Comcast Technology Center. “These are not just things for them to walk by on the street. They need to be able to see that they can be here and the path to be able to get here.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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