The Digital Age has been in full swing for decades, but computer science education is still surprisingly absent from public schools: Less than one-quarter of U.S. high schools offer computer science instruction.
To expose students in Southern California to computer science, Microsoft, in partnership with AEG Worldwide, hosted the L.A. Live DigiCamps Extravaganza on October 19 and 20. More than 200 middle school students from diverse schools and education nonprofits across Los Angeles County learned the basics of coding and participated in a hackathon to dream up new technologies. AEG Worldwide, who helped make this event possible, also treated the students to a bit of fun by giving them the opportunity to walk across the same stage as their favorite entertainers and get a photograph with an Emmy.
Held at Microsoft Square in Los Angeles, the day-long DigiCamps underscore Microsoft’s commitment to computer science education. Last year, Microsoft announced a $75 million community investment over the next three years to increase access to technology education for all youth, especially those from underserved backgrounds.
Microsoft DigiCamps, like the one in L.A. and others across the country, help ensure that all youth — no matter where they live or what their background may be — have the opportunity to learn computer science and computational thinking.
During each of the DigiCamp events in Los Angeles, Wanderson Skrock, a former teenage drug dealer turned educator, welcomed students with his inspiring personal story about how computer science changed his life. A global YouthSpark Youth Advisor, Skrock works with Microsoft to create programs, partnerships and resources for youth around the world.
“Your faces are all different, and you all have different stories, but you’re all here for the same purpose and that’s to learn how technology can open up different possibilities and opportunities,” Skrock said. “If you work hard and study hard, you can make a difference and be anything you want to be. You can be directors at Microsoft, developers or coders — whatever you want. You just have to work hard and have a dream.”
Students were greeted each day by the Compton and Englewood drumlines and closed the day with a student performance from CBG Arts, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to youth entertainment arts education. They also heard from ESPN broadcaster and NFL veteran Marcellus Wiley who offered them motivation for the future as well as career advice from Microsoft representatives who encouraged them to pursue their goals.
Computer science education is a priority not only for Los Angeles, but for the state of California. Last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that begins a three-year planning process to expand computer science education in California’s public schools, starting in kindergarten. The law recognizes that IT is one of the fastest-growing job sectors across California, and the state needs to step up efforts to satisfy the growing demand.
“The tools each of you are getting from Microsoft today will allow you to see how technology can open up possibilities and ideas about your future,” said Jeanne Holm, senior technology advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I encourage you to be curious, be brave and ask questions. Each one of you has the power to make a difference in your houses, in your families and in your neighborhoods here in the city of Los Angeles.”
Microsoft works with governments and community leaders around the world to close the skills gap and make computer science education more accessible and inclusive for youth everywhere. Microsoft YouthSpark programs empower youth to achieve more for themselves, their families and their communities.