Cade* was first introduced to computer science in sixth grade by Microsoft coders, engineers and executives who volunteer for an "Hour of Code" in City Year partner schools. Hour of Code is a global movement started by nonprofit Code.org that engages students in fun coding activities during Computer Science Week in December. These learning activities spark an interest in students likeCade to participate in City Year led computer science opportunities offered throughout the year. Now in ninth grade, Cade continues to build his skills in critical thinking, problem solving and creativity at Cardozo Education Center in Washington D.C., which serves students in grades 6-12.
"The people from Microsoft helped me understand how to make my games work. They also helped me out when I got stuck." Cade said. “I learn more and more about it each year I do Hour of Code.”
Since 2013, Microsoft employees have worked with 150 Cardozo students, giving them direct access to Microsoft computer science leaders. City Year staff have witnessed the possibilities that open up to students when they are able to connect with leaders who often reflect their background and who share stories about their jobs and career paths.
“Learning to code improves the way an individual solves problems, as they learn to process information in a logical manner, organize their ideas and collaborate in teams,” said Donna Woodall, Citizenship & Public Affairs Director for the Northeast Region for Microsoft. “We want to inspire young people to be creators and go beyond just being consumers of technology. By exposing more students to computer science, we are developing skills and talent that will likely produce the inventors of ‘the next new thing’ for our future.”
Hour of Code has become an integral part of the Cardozo’s culture and a vehicle to introduce computer science learning experiences to students. Just as important, students look forward to connecting with Microsoft employees during Hour of Code every year.
“When our students see first-hand how enthusiastic and passionate the Microsoft team is about their careers, our students’ engagement in learning activities like this increases exponentially,” said Allan La Grenade-Finch, City Year Impact Manager at Cardozo. “Our students look to leaders who look like them when determining whether they have a place in fields where they are underrepresented. These leaders demonstrate what is possible.”
Year after year, through this partnership, students in City Year schools are exploring computer science opportunities they may not otherwise get, and growing in confidence about their own abilities and aspirations.
“Student participation in Hour of Code is important because it opens [the students’] eyes to opportunity they may not have been aware of,” said Malcom Evans, ninth grade math teacher at Cardozo. “The program has provided our students the chance to work alongside professionals and expose them to some things that happen behind the scenes during the construction of a lot of the technological resources that they use on a daily basis.”
Through City Year’s partnership with Microsoft, middle school students across the country are creating strong connections to computer science through Hour of Code. Microsoft and City Year are collaborating in over 40 schools across the country and more than 3,100 students were introduced to Hour of Code through our partnership this year.
Research shows that equitable access to computers, along with technical education, help to bridge the digital divide for low-income communities and communities of color. However, many schools lack the resources or capacity to offer courses that build a foundational knowledge of technology and prepare students for today’s job market. That’s where Microsoft has come in: by supporting City Year’s efforts to build a national after-school computer science program for middle schools and offering the time and talent of its people to mentor students, Microsoft is demonstrating its deep commitment to expanding access to computer science education and making a real difference for students like Cade.
City Year is dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members serve full-time in high-need schools, providing high-impact student, classroom and school-wide support to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success.
A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is made possible by support from the Corporation for National and Community Service, school district partnerships, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals.
Microsoft is a long-standing partner of City Year, providing critical capacity-building funds to help develop new curriculum offerings and enhancing IT infrastructure through in-kind technology support. Through Microsoft YouthSpark, a global initiative to increase access for all youth to learn computer science, Microsoft also sponsors City Year teams in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, San Jose, and Washington D.C., and is focused on advancing computer science concepts with students.
*Name changed to protect student's privacy