Wiring our nation’s schools for success

By: Rose Stuckey Kirk
Hands Studio

President Obama laid it out on Tuesday evening. In his State of the Union address, he said “We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job… In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by… offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.” 

Rose Stuckey Kirk, President, Verizon FoundationIt’s not going to surprise you that his words spoke right to my heart. I’ve gotten to know kids who have not had the advantages that others have had. I’ve seen, firsthand, just how access to and training in technology has transformed their lives, giving these students new, marketable skills, teaching them about a whole world of possibilities. 

I know that this work is important precisely because it IS our future, and that’s why Verizon is deeply involved. It’s in our country’s interest to ensure the gap in our education system is closed, and closed quickly. 

If you’re in the business of technology, or any industry quite frankly, you know how hard it is to find qualified people. There simply aren’t enough to fill the jobs available. Women and minorities are especially missing from this field, and that means we’re all missing out. We’re going to need some serious commitments from public, private and professional sectors if we want to succeed.

It’s our corporate responsibility mission to work toward that at Verizon. But frankly, beyond a corporate mission, it’s personal for me as it’s what I eat, sleep and breathe. 

We use what’s uniquely ours – our mobile technology – and partner with educator groups that are proven effective and smart. Together, we’re addressing the education problems that keep youth in underserved communities from reaching and achieving their potential. We focus on marketable skills, like coding – the hands-on gateway to computer science – as well as entrepreneurship, critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving, that are going to make the difference for our kids.

Interestingly, President Obama spoke at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, LA on Thursday, January 14th. I’m proud of that choice, as McKinley is one of several schools participating in our “Innovative Design Thinking” initiative, helping to get students “job ready.”

McKinley’s kids make a difference. They impact their community directly. They build innovative tech solutions and develop useful apps that solve real world issues for small businesses in their communities. Through “Innovative Design Thinking,” McKinley’s students are being prepared for careers that might not unfold for them otherwise.

And, so many of the program’s participants already have big, exciting ideas. Senior Kaiya Smith has already started a small business that she runs out of her home, producing colorful headbands, scarves, and hats. Starting small by selling to friends and classmates, she now uses social media to promote her business across the country. She even has customers in New York City, and her class is helping create an app to further promote her business.

Technology isn’t a magic wand, it can’t cure everything, but we have seen that it is a powerful tool. It revolutionizes how students learn and digest information. And it is one of the keys to unlocking a brighter future for our children. I can’t wait to see where these students take technology – and their potential – next.

President, Verizon Foundation