This is a guest post by Nohely Perez, who is a mentor at Hive NYC member The Knowledge House and a second year student at Baruch College.
My fascination with technology began as a curious programmer– programming with HTML and CSS. Viewing these skills as a creative outlet and a potential way to gain interesting career opportunities, I joined The Knowledge House, a Mozilla Hive NYC member, which offers web literacy and tech-entrepreneurship training for young adults in the Bronx. I became involved with CITYExpeditions, where I served as a mentor for high school students and was part of a team that collaborated on ways to use technology for addressing some of the bigger issues faced by my community. These issues include lack of resources and awareness on existing opportunities (by students, parents, and educators), lack of purpose /don’t know where to look or where to begin, or not career-minded or reflective on their role within a progressive career path, and so on.
The CITY (Connecting, Inspiring, and Trailblazing with Youth) Expeditions program is a collaboration between The Knowledge House and CITYPathways. High school youth are matched with college aged alumni (like me) from The Knowledge House for site visits to technology organizations and educational providers throughout New York City. Throughout the program, youth gain 21st century digital skills, leadership development, and reflections on their role within the technology ecosystem. This was specifically accomplished through the completion of four projects per youth, engagement in STEAM-related activities, exposure to career pathways within the technology field, and increased knowledge and skill development through access to other Hive supported programs and Emoticon, a youth event, . As a final product of the program, we created a Digital Roadmap – an interactive digital asset map that includes access to students’ blog sites, testimonies, photos, and the locations of all the site visits made in New York.
After having created a tool that we know has potential to expand and address these issues faced by youth in disconnected communities, we were exhilarated when we received news that Mozilla wanted us to share our work at their annual MozFest event in London.
We appreciated the opportunity to inquire into the minds of people from all around the world on their thoughts, ideas, and feedback on our work. Through our workshop From Broken to Brokering: Designing Digital Roadmaps to Connect Dots for Youth in Our Cities, we wanted to invite participants to speculate on solutions for the gap in resources for youth on a global scale. Brokering is defined as “the practice of helping young people make crucial connections to the next learning opportunity.” By introducing the Digital Roadmap and creating an innovative and inclusive space where participants can collectively brainstorm and collaborate on ways to enhance the tool, we knew that this would be a great platform for solution contemplation.
Prior to the Saturday morning when we held our presentation, we knew we wanted to incorporate the Digital Roadmap into our workshop, but we didn’t know how to do so; naturally, we faced some barriers. We knew that people interested in tech were attending, but we didn’t know what type of people (students, educators, etc.)
A HUGE barrier for us was also determining how many people were attending. How were we to design a workshop when we didn’t know who and how many people were attending? In all honesty, I feared that this workshop wouldn’t succeed, and I felt this task was a bit unfeasible. However, the positive outlook from our team members–Sanda Balaban, Dixie Ching, Jerelyn Rodriguez, and Sergio Garcia–gave me the assurance that this might actually turn out okay. As a result, we created a workshop that would be inclusive to all types of people. We also embraced the “unknown” aboutthe amount of people who would attend, and viewed this as an opportunity to improvise should anything turn out completely unpredictable. In retrospect, there was no reason for many of my concerns. We received positive feedback and engagement from participants and the workshop was more than “okay”–it was a success!
As a young professional, constantly wondering what my next career move will be, I would have never thought that facilitating a workshop at London would be it. Participating at this global, interactive event allowed me to experience being part of something bigger than myself and my local community. I got to hear from people all around the world working on projects that have the capacity to uplift their own communities. I also got to participate in workshops and be a part of the solution for other web-related problems faced by my community at large; topics varied from digital inclusion, to web literacy, to using storytelling as a tool for diversity and social justice. It was nice to be surrounded by like-minded, positive, and solution-oriented people from around the world that cared about the future generation of the web and technology amidst the adversities that our world currently faces.
Thank you Jerelyn for your dedication to empowering youths like me; thank you Hive NYC for investing in the advancement of my community; and thank you Mozilla for making this all possible!