Closing curly bracket: Rachel Décoste says goodbye to the Congressional App Challenge

I took on  the role of Congressional App Challenge Director in 2017, following the second annual #HouseOfCode reception on Capitol Hill.

I decided to put my energy into creating benchmarks and streamlining the Challenge engine. We built a fantastic team of data experts, communications whizzes and several awesome interns from around the country.

By reaching out to key stakeholders, including top innovation corporations and grassroots STEM education organizations, the Congressional App Challenge saw unprecedented growth.


Priming the pipeline

Besides gaining traction among Congressional Black Caucus members during my tenure, the CAC has also doubled the number of rural participants, increased American Indian and Alaska Native participation by 73%, tripled the number of Latino/Hispanic participants, and reached three times more girls in 2018 than 2016.

Most memorable moments

A team that included students with developmental disabilities not only learned to code, but won their district. The confidence boost propelled the student to apply and be admitted to a specialized school.

In Texas, SXSW hosted a panel where I sat alongside a Member of Congress who is as passionate about priming the diversity pipeline in the tech industry as I am. Rep. Yvette Clarke later shared with me that the winner from her district was later admitted to a STEM program in college.

Going to a Virginia STEM weekend event with Rep. Barbara Comstock, where she clearly articulated how Logan Apple’s winning app works and proudly recalled that her teen constituent perfected his app on his own, at home.

The inaugural CS For All conference in St-Louis, Missouri, where I made significant inroads in the heartland of America, on behalf of the Congressional App Challenge. Also, St-Louis’ French history was an eye-opening journey to the gateway of the West, on the banks of the Mississippi.

Every time I roamed the halls of Capitol Hill, I marveled at the buildings’ regal beauty. This photo was taken after holding a meeting with our congressional stakeholders in the Judiciary Library.

Holding a meeting with our congressional stakeholders in the Judiciary Library, Capitol Hill.

Moving forward

As I move onto a new role, I will remain a steadfast supporter of this program. I join the U.S. Congress in reiterating that youth today should be pick up the skills required for the jobs of the future. I leave the CAC in the steady hands of my capable my successor, Joseph Alessi. I am confident the Congressional App Challenge will continue its ascent across all 50 states.

Thank you to everyone who was part of my team, including IEF Executive Director Tim Lordan who has been a trusted advisor and friend.


Rachel Décoste
(Former) Director

, Congressional App Challenge