Mission’s own Code the Town initiative was among several local programs named a “bright spot” in Hispanic education by the White House this week.
More than 230 agencies nationwide are being recognized in the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ Bright Spots in Hispanic Education National Online Catalog. Programs selected showed they were furthering the education of the Hispanic population in one of the following areas: early learning, K-12 education and college access, postsecondary completion, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and Latino teacher recruitment.
Other initiatives in the area that were recognized include the HESTEC program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the early college program at South Texas College and VIDA: Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement.
Alex Meade, president of the Mission Economic Development Corporation, pointed out Code the Town is the only EDC-driven program amongst the 200-plus projects on the list.
Yes, the Mission EDC’s job is to recruit businesses, and it’s doing that, Meade said, but in order to lure hiring paying jobs, the community needs an educated workforce. That’s where MEDC’s Code the Town comes in to the picture, teaching students and adults computer programming. The MEDC partnered with Sylvan Learning Center and Border Kids Code to make it happen.
Traditionally, manufacturing companies come to the Valley, Meade said.
“It’s very rare that you have a company say, ‘Hey, I need 100 employees. Let me go to the Valley.’ Because we’re good at working with our hands, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s about time that if we really do want to change the poverty level, and just the trajectory for the Valley, we really do have to focus on STEM education,” Meade said. “Once we have a large pool of an educated workforce, then they’re going to seek us for our minds and our hands.”
In the last year, 600 children have written 83,000 lines of code through the MEDC’s program. Counting teachers and adults who have gone through the program, nearly 100,000 lines were written, Meade said.
Code the Town was so successful, Meade said, that Royal Technologies approached the MEDC earlier this year to launch a similar program, Enginuity, which will target young students who want to pursue a career in engineering. Meade has high expectations for Enginuity, as the MEDC will partner again with Sylvan Learning Center as well as Royal Technologies, which will potentially employ students who have gone through the program.
Meanwhile, Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology (HESTEC) at UTRGV also was recognized for its work in STEM. According to a news release, HESTEC, which was created more than 10 years ago has reached more than 7,700 educators, 37,000 students and 2,000 college students through its annual career expo.
“We wanted to invest in the education attainment of Hispanics from cradle to career. With the support of leading organizations and communities around our nation, we concentrated our efforts on Hispanic education, particularly in the advancement in the STEM fields. Today, our students are finding many opportunities to excel in their studies and advance their careers,” said Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, one of the organization’s founders.
For more information on the Hispanic education initiative, visit www.ed.gov/hispanicinitiative.