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Computer Science Center Stage at UN General Assembly Thanks to One Entrepreneur’s Vision to Bring Coding to Classrooms

Silvia Davi |                                          September 2

Having attended last week’s UN General Assembly, this weekend, I reflected upon the leaders making great strides in our country and across the globe. One leader I was fascinated with was Hadi Partovi, CEO and Founder of Code, CODE.org, a non-profit organization operating like a fast-growing tech start-up with the mission of teaching every student in America how to code.

Computer Science is very different today than the computer application classes we took as kids. Most children in America today have access to smart phones, and are being raised amidst a digital revolution. Today’s kids don’t need to be taught how to use a keyboard, how to access Google or download an app. However, not every school in our country is consistently taking Computer Science to the next level. Code is focused on solving the problem at the elementary level with a new way of teaching Computer Science.

“Most of this is about teaching innovation,” Hadi Partovi says. “It’s about how computers work on the inside and how to make something. Software is changing everything.” Partovi’s mission is to give an opportunity to all children across our country, so they learn how to code, program, and make software. He believes everyone should have the same access, and he’s a big proponent of supporting diversity in computing.

Partovi, a tech entrepreneur and angel investor who was born in Tehran, Iran, came to the US 32 years ago. With no access to Computer Science lessons at school, he taught himself to code at home. He then immigrated to NY with his family and had the opportunity to do a number of software internships to pay for high school and later his college education. Post graduation, he got his start at Microsoft (MSFT). The Harvard graduate was an early investor in a number of startups like Facebook (FB), Dropbox, Zappos and Airbnb, and the rest is history.

Today, he is focused on paying it forward to the next generation of tech gurus…and it’s working. Code has made a global impact with its Hour of Code movement, a curriculum platform for students K-12, which to date has reached over 100 million students.

During UN General Assembly, Code was front and center at the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDG) Media Zone tent – with a kiosk, marketing team and many interactive giveaways focusing on bringing to light how technology is a fundamental skill that needs to be taught to kids of all backgrounds starting at a young age. Code has worked hard to develop partnerships with all public schools in major cities. With only 60 people working at the Seattle based organization, they have attracted a lot of talent, mainly women, as Partovi adds, who “kick ass” and are proof that there are a rising number of women pursuing careers in technology. The Computer Science program is in 120 school districts in the US reaching about 12 million students and its Hour of Code concept has reached over 100 million students globally.

It’s entrepreneurs like these who are truly shaping future generations and are inspiring, by finding a balance between entrepreneurship and doing social good. It’s no question that today, technology jobs are the best paying professions, surpassing healthcare and financial services, and it’s refreshing to see an organization doing so much to create diversity in this field. Partovi highlighted that kids today love Computer Science. He’s conducted many surveys that showcase that it’s increasingly popular with kids because they love to make things.

The evening I met Partovi, I came home and talked about the organization with my family and handed my kids (a 7th grade girl and a 1st grade boy) some of the giveaways Partovi gave me for them: a t-shirt for my daughter with a colorful slogan “Code Like a Girl” and a “Code” cap for my son, along with many inspirational stickers. My 12 year-old daughter quickly pointed out that she was very familiar with the organization, as she has already learned how to code. She pulled out a certificate from last year, which was for the successful completion of The Hour of Code – to my surprise signed by Mr. Hadi Partovi himself! My 6 year-old son then quickly pointed out that he’s taken engineering lessons and loves to make things on computers, clearly proving Partovi’s point on what kids love to learn. It was a healthy, competitive sibling dialogue between today’s tech-savvy kids and tomorrow’s future generation, which gave me an inside view on the visionaries who are helping shape how and what my kids learn.

It made me happy to hear that thanks to organizations like Code, more kids across the country despite what neighborhood they are raised will have access to the same technology standards as some of the best schools in America.

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