(Photo by Chris Kendig)
Sylvester Mobley, founder of tech education nonprofit Coded by Kids, was announced Thursday as the recipient of the 2018 Philadelphia Award, a yearly accolade bestowed upon citizens who “acted and served on behalf of the best interests of the community.”
On the phone with Technical.ly, the Iraq war veteran said he was “definitely surprised” by the award, which in years past has gone to figures like scientist Carl June, former Philly mayor John Street and Mural Arts program founder Jane Golden.
“It wasn’t something I was expecting,” said Mobley, who founded the organization in 2013. “I’m seeing this as an opportunity to bring awareness to some of the issues that we’re dealing with. When there are conversations around equity, education and gentrification, very few people understand how these are connected. I’m happy to see there’s an opportunity to elevate that.”
Comcast exec David Cohen, who also chairs the board of trustees for the Philadelphia Award, praised the impact of Mobley’s work on Philly youths.
“Through his work with Coded by Kids, Sylvester is not just training kids for tech careers, but he’s also training them to be leaders in the field and serving as a role model in the process,” Cohen said in a press release. “That’s something that’s sorely needed here in our Philadelphia neighborhoods.”
What’s next for the nonprofit? Mobley said Coded by Kids is undergoing a restructuring of how it carries out its coding education programs — and how they’re funded. It currently reaches about 650 students in schools and community centers in three states.
Traditionally, Mobley’s nonprofit has worked with sponsors to pick a school or location to launch new programs. Now, Coded by Kids will pick its partners and locations based only on “what makes a good partner and what doesn’t.”
Associated with the restructuring, Coded by Kids laid off a pair of staffers at the beginning of March.
“As we’re doing the restructuring and looking at how we deliver programs, raise money for them and market them, we’re looking across the organization to see where people need to be realigned,” Mobley said.
As it retools its approach, the organization has not set a metrics goal, like additional programs deployed or students reached. Instead, it is focusing on doing interviews with students and using their insights to shape the programs.
The focus on diversity remains unchanged, as the founder hopes tech can be a catalyst for reducing a lack of equity in Philadelphia, one of the poorest big cities in the country.
“Addressing these issues in tech will help to push for a more equitable city,” Mobley said.-30-
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