The Congressional App Challenge’s Alumni Advisory Board recently caught up with our friends at CodeCrew, a non-profit that aims to mentor underrepresented youth to be tech innovators and leaders through practical, hands-on computer science education programs throughout Memphis. Check out our interview, lightly edited for clarity, below:
CAC: What was the inspiration behind founding CodeCrew?
CC: CodeCrew was founded in May 2015 by Petya Grady, Audrey Willis, and Meka Egwuekwe. The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation had invested in a community center in the economically challenged neighborhood of Binghampton with new basketball courts and a digital lab. The Grizzlies wanted tech education opportunities for children at the community center through the digital lab and CodeCrew was founded to address this need. At the same time, the founders saw this as an opportunity to move the needle across Memphis with respect to bringing computer science education to underrepresented groups. Starting with a single summer camp at the community center in 2015, CodeCrew has grown to include after-school programming, in-school electives, exposure events, teacher training, policy work, and adult bootcamp training, impacting children and adults across Memphis and across Tennessee and beyond.
CAC: CodeCrew is making a tremendous impact in Memphis. Do you have any plans to expand the program in the future?
CC: Absolutely. In fact, CodeCrew has already had an outsized impact beyond Memphis. Some examples include:
CodeCrew has trained teachers in Arkansas to teach computer science, impacting more than a thousand K-12 students in that state.
CodeCrew has been successful in getting computer science education legislation passed at the state level in Tennessee, impacting more than 1 million K-12 children across the state.
CodeCrew has partnered with CSforALL and CSEdResearch to bring a $1 million NSF grant to Tennessee to help school districts across the state develop computer science education implementation plans.
CodeCrew has partnered with the Tarik Black Foundation and Colosseum Sports to bring together 25 kids in Memphis with 25 kids in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel to host and execute the Global Sports Tech Youth Challenge, where these kids built sports tech businesses over a three-day event.
However, CodeCrew’s greater ambitions include expanding its teacher training to more states, impacting national legislation with respect to K-12 computer science education, and expanding its adult coding bootcamp to serve more students beyond Memphis.
CAC: CodeCrew mentors underrepresented youth to be tech innovators in Memphis – a majority-Black city. Why is this work so critical and what can others do to help reach underserved youth in their own communities?
CC: Building a diverse tech ecosystem in Memphis is vital to not only CodeCrew’s contribution to diversifying tech but also how Memphis and cities with similar demographics can play an important role in diversifying tech. The tech industry has experienced very little growth over the past eight years in making strides towards moving the needle on the gender and racial makeup of those in tech.
CAC: What are some of the events that CodeCrew is hosting in the next few months?
CC: In the next few months, CodeCrew will be hosting or co-hosting the following events:
The UMazing Tech Race powered by CodeCrew & University of Memphis’ FedEx Institute of Technology (April 9, 2022)
2nd Annual ExCITE (Excellence in Computation, Innovation, Technology & Engineering) Awards (May 4, 2022)
Annual Spring Hour of Code (May 14, 2022)
CodeCrew Annual Hackathon (July 2022)
CSforAll Summit is being held in Memphis, Tennessee (October 19-21, 2022)
CAC: How can people get involved in CodeCrew?
CC: Joining our crew is rather simple. Visit our website at www.code–crew.org to learn how to get CodeCrew at your school, join our next cohort for Code School, donate, or volunteer! You can also email us at [email protected]code–crew.org.