Rebecca Garcia is being honored as a Champion of Change for her work to expand opportunities for young learners from communities historically underserved or underrepresented in tech fields.
Growing up we aren't given many choices. We're told what to wear, to say please and thanks, that two plus two equals four. Later in life we spend so much time trying to figure out how to re-ignite that spark that's dimmed, to have that fire that keeps you up at night. For me, the stick was the idea of helping people and the stone was technology.
The fire didn't begin until I realized the full potential of technology, but it wasn't the technical know-how...it was the people who believed in me and pushed me to learn more and those who still do. My journey began when people invested in me, as a 14 year old girl at MIT's iD Tech Camps, an early chance to explore my passions. And later to teach there to help other youth find theirs. But a summer camp wasn't enough, though the open learning environment stuck with me as I joined Do Something as a developer. Jumpstarting my career early in 2011 allowed me to be a part of a platform that leads youth to real offline action, not just in spirit but in measurable data, not just tens of thousands, but millions of teens across the US. Out of Do Something, CoderDojo NYC began as a side volunteer project, organizing mentors and youth for monthly sessions for web, game and app development; today it's so much more. We're proud to showcase the idea behind inclusion, with ethnic diversity and a 50:50 gender ratio of young men and women learning together.
There's a 9 year old girl who we affectionately call "Little Rebecca" who attends CoderDojo NYC. She's been with us since the beginning, and we've had the chance to see her grow. Her parents told us before attending she had never heard of computer science, and after a few months she had asked them "is this something you can do for a living?" This year she made her first Android app, and presented it in front of industry professionals. My favorite thing though, isn't her accomplishments, but hearing the excuses when she can't attend, "sorry she's at space camp" and "she is building her first robot for a science fair". I knew that if I could positively impact one girls' life--imagine what that meant bringing together others across the globe.
Joining the Hello World Foundation means helping bring together 200 CoderDojo chapters in 23 countries, not as training schools for youth but as places that serve to inspire and help the next generation become even better dreamers, thinkers and builders through technology. After starting in Ireland, it's spread like wildfire. The idea of open STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) coding clubs for youth everywhere from Mexico, Japan, Slovenia, Scotland and anywhere in between. They're led by volunteers who mentor, who don't just teach, they inspire.
We're here on this planet to make meaningful connections, and they are worth more than any monetary donation. Worth more than a 'handout', or being treated differently as a 'hand-up'--we want 'handshakes', to be included. Some say there are limiting factors, whether it’s the economy, wars, or political turmoil. I say that this gives us opportunities, especially for young people, to be creative, to innovate and solve these issues with the help of technology in faster and smarter ways. Our digital footprint has more impact now than ever, and a line of code can be a catalyst for social change.
I currently work at the Hello World Foundation an Irish non-profit that aims to inspire the next generation of creators through technology.
Rebecca Garcia is the Co-Founder of CoderDojo NYC.