STEM provides tech opportunities for teens, diversity in thought

By | 2 minute read | April 13, 2021

By making Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) an integral part of secondary school academic training, we can not only help better secure our children’s future, but also improve diversity of thought and perspective within these fields.

I first realized how much I enjoy teaching children and teens about technology when I had the opportunity to teach my niece’s entire fifth grade class how to build web pages. Their excitement was palpable—I could see lightbulbs go off in their heads when they realized they were able to code. They even asked for homework, eager to learn what they could do next.

As ADP was searching for virtual volunteer activities earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, IBM was looking for participants for their Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) program, and they reached out to us. I think it was a perfect match.

P-TECH students design a new mobile app for financial planning

IBM’s P-TECH model spans grades 9 – 14 and enables students, primarily from underserved backgrounds, to earn both a high school diploma and a no-cost associates degree in a STEM discipline through a six-year program. The program helps ensure that kids who are interested in technology have opportunities and gain the skillset they need for career readiness.

One of the key skills students learn is problem solving. So when IBM came up with the idea for ADP and students from Panther Academy’s P-TECH program to participate in a design thinking session—which is all about solving problems—it was an ideal choice. The goal: design a new mobile app.

Seventeen-year-old kids are already very in tune with technology. As they began collecting ideas and molding them into a mobile application in the design thinking session, they focused on topics that interested them. Ultimately, they came up with an app for financial planning, which isn’t something I even considered when I was their age.

Diversity of thought and experience will enhance the future of technology

Collaborations like the one between ADP and IBM that serve underprivileged kids are incredibly important. My two big take-aways from this experience would be, first, invest in children’s futures by participating in sessions like this. It has a big impact on the future, not just for the kids, but for the broader population, because we’ll all benefit from their ideas and the applications they create. And second, by providing these opportunities, we gain a diversity of thought from the kids’ unique perspective, which will lead to better applications, software tools and technology.

Being a part of P-Tech and seeing the opportunities that the kids are getting helps fuel the passion that I have for teaching. At some point in my career, I want to help more kids have an opportunity to learn, and to have a pathway forward to college and a job in technology. In the meantime, I’m proud to work for a company like ADP that gives its employees the time to make an impact on the lives of underprivileged kids. It’s incredibly important because their future is our future.

Watch how ADP and IBM help underserved kids gain tech expertise for career opportunities: