Professional Development
Cybersecurity / Education / workforce development

American Dream Academy launches 12 aspiring technologists toward new careers in Delaware

It’s the last cohort for the program, which was prepared to serve 100 residents and only ended up enrolling 16.

Eboni Brown (left) and Rochelle Mellette. (Courtesy Tech Council of Delaware)
On Friday, the Tech Council of Delaware held a special gathering to celebrate a dozen career-bound tech professionals’ completion of The American Dream Academy.

The six-month online tech education program gives adult learners a tuition-free opportunity to earn career certificates created by companies including IBM, Meta and Google. The tech council and Bank of America partnered to bring a full-supported American Dream Academy to Delaware, offering up to 100 tuition-free spots to Delawareans aged 18-24.

The celebration had a bittersweetness to it — not for the graduates, but for the future. The Coursera-based program is ending, making this class the final one.

Executive Director Zakiyyah Ali said the program, created by the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream, was created to guide local tech organizations.

“It was always meant to be a two-year program,” Ali said. “The idea behind promoting it nationwide was so that other organizations like the Tech Council of Delaware can pick up the baton and keep going.”

That is what the tech council and its education director Vishakha Jha intend to do in some iteration.

The graduates. ( Quinn)

‘Let us celebrate this victory grand with joy in our hearts and dream in hand’

The graduates, split evenly between male and female, represent all three Delaware counties.

Many students are employed — to qualify for the program, they can’t earn more than $40,000 annually when they apply — and are looking for a better job that can take them to the next level.

Graduate Ayaya Ayden got up and read a poem she had written. It ended with:

“Let us celebrate this victory grand with joy in our hearts and dream in hand.

For in this tech journey, we found our groove and now the world is ours to move.”

‘I can do this’

Eboni Brown, who chose to focus on Google Business Analytics and Business Writing, works in banking operations in Wilmington and had been thinking about a career transition. She saw a post about the American Dream Academy on Twitter. Although she was outside the stated age range of 19-24, she was open about it, applied anyway and got accepted.

“It’s been a really great experience,” Brown said.

She said that while she considers herself an independent person, she found value in the support of learning support coach Jamelah Henry.

“Having the support and knowing that other people are pushing through and trying to make it to the end, it just really helped me stay motivated and want to get it done,” she said.

Social media was also how Rochelle Mellette, who focused on the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst certificate and Strategic Self-Marketing and Personal Branding, learned about the program.

Mellette, who works in sales for Comcast, was considering enrolling in college for cybersecurity when she saw the post about the American Dream Academy.

“Taking the certificate program was a confirmation that I can do this,” Mellette said. “I wanted to see if this is something that I actually wanted, prior to actually enrolling in school.”

Mellette hopes to eventually move into a cybersecurity position with her current employer.

“Comcast has a ton of different opportunities,” she said.

‘We can and must do better’

For Ali, the cohort has been both a source of pride and frustration with the challenges of getting career-seekers to see the value in such programs — and even to see that they exist.

“As we look forward to the future, we collectively must commit to doing better,” Ali said. “With just over one million residents living in Delaware, we, the tech council, can and should do a better job of spreading the word of worthwhile programs like these to career seekers, so that residents can take advantage of opportunities like this.”

Ali noted that the council was prepared to serve 100 residents and enrolled just 16.

“That’s not good enough,” Ali said. “We know that our competitive labor market and global economy requires that all of us have the skills and abilities to achieve economic prosperity. We can and must do better.”

New graduates Mellette and Brown both advise anyone considering a career in tech to look into upcoming programming similar to the American Dream Academy. Brown also encourages prospective students to figure out what tech area they’re most interested in and follow that path.

“If you’re not really interested in it, it’s going to make it harder to complete,” Brown said. “But once you find something that you really like, that really helps you get through the program.”

“Don’t second guess yourself,” Mellette advised, “because I was definitely second guessing myself like every single day.”

Disclosure: This article mentions The Tech Council of Delaware and Comcast, which are both clients. Neither relationship impacted this report. 

Companies: Tech Council of Delaware / Meta / Comcast / IBM

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