Oakland Answers White House Call to Expand Computer Science Education

The Kapor Center for Social Impact, Oakland, California, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland Unified School District, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Bay Area companies including Uber and Twilio announced a series of commitments Jan. 30 in an effort to ensure that all Oakland students have access to computer science education and career pathways.

[Related: Computer Science Is Coming to a School Near You]

The announcement comes in coordination with the White House, which Jan. 30 unveiled a plan to expand access to computer science education throughout the country, calling on “Governors, mayors, education leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, creative media and technology professionals, and others to get involved.”

Oakland intends to become a national leader in computer science education through this unique partnership of government leaders, tech companies, and nonprofits. Some of the commitments announced include:

  • Oakland Unified School District will ensure that all PK-12 students will have access to rigorous computer science education in the classroom by 2020.
  • Through partnerships with companies, philanthropists, nonprofits, and the Mayor’s Office, computer science will be integrated into after-school and extended-day programming, summer programming, and internships.
  • Kapor Capital will work with dozens of portfolio companies to provide mentoring and volunteer opportunities for their employees to work with Oakland youth. As examples, Twilio will continue its support of LPFI Hackathons and networking nights during the academic year for Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Scholars; both Twilio and Uber will develop mentoring activities connecting their tech talent to Oakland students.
  • The Level Playing Field Institute will expand SMASH Academies, the residential program that has been serving Oakland youth since 2004, as well as the CS-Academic Year Program for SMASH Scholars to continue their CS education on Saturdays during the school year to qualify for AP CS credit.
  • Congresswoman Barbara Lee will identify funding streams within various federal agencies for funding Oakland’s focus on expanding CS education and tech career pathways.

“After 12 years of operating the Summer Math and Science Honors academies, we know that Oakland is brimming with genius,” said Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, in a statement. “When we don’t tap into that genius, we are missing a huge opportunity for innovation. These commitments aren’t just important for Oakland youth–they’re going to have a huge impact on the tech industry.”

“As more and more tech companies call Oakland home, it has the potential to either increase inequality or lift up the entire community. Bringing computer science education to all Oakland youth marks a big step towards the positive,” said Mitch Kapor, partner at Kapor Capital. “I’m proud to see Oakland stepping up to become a model of tech getting it right.”

“Oakland has become a major center of innovation,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Increasingly, the tech industry has seen the value in the vibrant, diverse and progressive community that Oakland has cultivated and they want to be part of it. What we need to ensure now is that our residents, particularly our young people, are ready to step into their rightful place in the tech sector that drives our global economy. That’s why equitable access to training and opportunities is so critical.

“Providing access to Computer Science education for all OUSD students is critical,” said Claire Shorall, manager of computer science at OUSD. “As the new hub of innovation, Oakland will need more engineers to power growing companies. When that happens, as it is already starting to, OUSD graduates will be ready to fill those seats as local, home-grown talent. Or, better yet, start their own.”

“As the move to our new Oakland office approaches, we are excited to do our part to empower the community we will call home,” said Damien Hooper-Campbell, global head of Diversity and Inclusion at Uber. “Uber is committed to developing and mentoring Oakland youth so they become future innovators and leaders.”

“Tech companies are in a position where they can create tremendous impact in students’ lives by investing not just their money, but also their time,” said Erika Balbuena, senior manager of Twilio.org.  “We’ve had the privilege of meeting and mentoring students through our support of LPFI’s ‘Level the Coding Field’ hackathons and their SMASH Academy networking nights. We see this program and others like it as the steppingstone to great careers in tech.”