Apple's iPads open up new worlds for Oakland youth (@ EOYDC @PUSHTECH2020)!
Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY10:32 a.m. EDT August 12, 2016
The East Oakland Youth Development Center's six-week, hands-on summer class exposes kids ages seven to 12 to technology and the 21st century skills that come with it. For many in this classroom, this is the first time they have touched an iPad.
OAKLAND, Calif. — On a sunny summer morning, kids bounce in their chairs and rock their heads rhythmically to infectious beats their classmates are mixing on GarageBand software.
"Give her a thumbs up for her beat," exhorts instructor Jeffrei Pettaway and an enthusiastic sea of hands juts into the air.
For many in this classroom, this is the first time they have touched an iPad. This six-week, hands-on summer class exposes kids ages seven to 12 to technology — and the 21st century skills that come with it.
With a few swipes, the tablets on the tables in front of them — a gift from technology giant Apple — open up worlds miles away from this hardened stretch of East Oakland, Calif. The kids have ventured on virtual scavenger hunts in Africa and researched what life is like in India, each project making them more familiar and at ease with the software that is transporting them.
"This is bringing a whole new world inside their backyard in a way that's safe for them to explore," says Regina Jackson as she watches the students absorb the morning lessons.
Jackson is president of the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Equal parts sanctuary and springboard, it was founded nearly four decades ago by former Clorox CEO Robert Shetterly to lift the fortunes of a neighborhood overburdened by sky-high rates of poverty, crime and violence.
Of the students in this class, about 90% qualify for free lunch and live within blocks of the center. They come here for rare access to opportunity in the form of free after-school tutoring, college preparation courses, music and arts lessons, health and wellness education programs and the hardwood that such NBA greats as Gary Paytonand Jason Kidd once played on.
The community center's goal: to give children the same shot at success they would have in wealthier parts of the city. Increasingly, that means the digital literacy they will need to successfully navigate the world.
Low-income youth in East Oakland are among "the most technologically disconnected demographic groups in the United States," Jackson says. Four out of 10 students in Oakland public schools do not have access to a computer at home and Jackson estimates that 70% of the students at her community center do not have a computer at home with parents relying instead on smartphones.
Jackson installed computer labs to connect more kids to technology. And, this summer, she teamed up with Apple, which is reaching across the digital divide into Oakland, starting with this donation of 40 iPads to expose 180 kids to the technology that will shape their lives and careers. The East Oakland Youth Development Center eventually wants to offer year-round computer classes and coding classes.
"We know how transformative technology can be in education and throughout communities," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, who first visited the East Oakland Youth Development Center in June. "Every child deserves the right to a great education. These students are working on everything from learning to code to writing resumes, and we can’t wait to see what they will do in the world.”
Silicon Valley, the high-tech corridor that stretches between San Francisco and San Jose, has come under broad criticism that its outreach efforts have overlooked Oakland, a diverse city across the Bay where African Americans and Latinos make up more than half of residents.
No critic has been more vocal than Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader who has led the campaign for Silicon Valley to hire more African Americans and Latinos, two groups sharply underrepresented in Silicon Valley tech companies.
His advocacy led to Intel forming a five-year partnership with the Oakland Unified School District designed to touch the lives of 2,300 students and graduate 600 students in computer science and engineering programs at two high schools.
Jackson says he proposed to CEO Tim Cook that Apple invest in Oakland after an Apple shareholder meeting.
Apple's workforce is 9% African American and 12% Hispanic, a single-percentage point increase from last year. It's pushing to make progress. Out of a U.S. workforce of 80,000, 27% of new hires in the last year were underrepresented minorities, according to the company.
Apple is far from alone. Tech companies in Silicon Valley have made pledges to do better but their numbers have barely budged. Apple is more diverse than some tech companies because of lower-paid workers in its retail stores, though it did post a 1% increase in African Americans in technical jobs.
"'Tim, all these companies say they can't find talent,'" Rev. Jackson recalls telling Cook. "'Oakland is the most multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multicultural city on the West Coast. It's within shouting distance of most of these tech companies. They say 'we can't find them,' Well, they aren't looking in the right places. Come to Oakland. You'll find one of the most creative, innovative, spirited talent base, right in the backyard of Silicon Valley.'
This summer Apple staffers came to the East Oakland Youth Development Center to set up the equipment and offer training on the iPads and use of Apple software such as Keynote and GarageBand. Already, the program is sparking imaginations and ambitions.
"For most of these kids, this is the first time ever being around an iPad," says their 17-year-old college-bound instructor Pettaway. "What I am trying to do is start their digital footprints early."