New York City is a hotbed of technological innovation, but many of its public school students arenâ€™t graduating with the skills needed to be a part of â€œSilicon Alley,â€ as itâ€™s known. Scott Schwaitzberg, vice president of Activate, is planning to fix that problem by helping to build a public high school designed to teach the cityâ€™s youth everything they need to know about writing software and the tech industry.
Schwaitzberg is part of a team thatâ€™s creating a revolutionary public high school for software engineering in the heart of New York City. Named â€œThe Academy for Software Engineering,â€ the school will admit 500 students in grades 9 through 12 when it opens in the fall of this year. Thereâ€™s a limited screening process: Prospective students attend an information session and sit down with an advisor to be considered for the admissions lottery.
The Academyâ€™s main goal is to teach the art and science of coding to students who donâ€™t usually consider a career as a software engineer a possibility, including kids who come from less well-off families. Other programs exist in New York City that teach students basic computer skills, but Schwaitzberg believes the cityâ€™s youth need something more.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to teach coding as just a life skill,â€ says Schwaitzberg, â€œbut rather as a career path.â€
At the school, students will learn in-depth software engineering skills alongside a traditional high school curriculum. The school will also serve as a â€œtraining groundâ€ for computer science and software engineering instructors, who will modify, adapt and improve their curricula as the program develops.
Schwaitzbergâ€™s mission is to link the schoolâ€™s students with top tech companies through mentorships and internships, giving kids a first-hand look at the inner workings of Silicon Alley before they even graduate. Heâ€™s working with a team of advisors from top-end tech companies such asÂ Google,Â Foursquare,Â KickstarterÂ and others to integrate the school into New Yorkâ€™s tech scene.
â€œThe goal is to really embed the program into the New York City tech community,â€ says Schwaitzberg.
Not every one of the students who graduate from the Academy will be launched into a career or a college program in software engineering, says Schwaitzberg. But each student will learn how to think like a coder â€” an education that will develop studentsâ€™ mathematical, logic and reasoning abilities, all skills that software engineering relies upon.
Beyond that, Schwaitzberger wants the school to excel to the point where itâ€™s considered a role model for education innovation across the country.
â€œNot every student will be an expert Quality Analysis Engineer at Google, but we will expose them to something unique and create an education model for other cities,â€ says Schwaitzberg. â€œThatâ€™s been the goal since day one. Also, if our graduation rate dramatically exceeds that of New York City as a whole and gains a reputation for preparing and exciting kids for a career in software, thatâ€™s a win.â€
Schwaitzberg first began working on the idea while he was working on digital initiatives at New York City Mayor Michael Bloombergâ€™s office. The plan is part of theÂ Fix Young AmericaÂ campaign, an initiative to help reduce youth unemployment through entrepreneurship.
Do you think a public high school to teach kids how to write software code is a good approach for getting more students integrated into the tech community? Should other cities adopt the idea? Sound off in the comments below.