The Chinese proverb "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" is an apt description for the work Jonathan Jelks and AJ Hills IV began on July 21st at the Baxter Community Center.
The duo organized "Power Up," a technology fair designed to explore the opportunities for entrepreneurs, young people, women and minorities to find jobs and careers within Grand Rapids technology sector.
Over 100 people attended the event, which featured a series of speakers from the local business community along with representatives from organizations and companies such as Atomic Object, eMerge West Michigan, Grand Rapids Innovation Academy, SoftwareGR and Fathom, LLC.
In announcing the event, the organizers said the tech fair was heavily inspired by the Forbes article that ranked Grand Rapids, Michigan in the top 10 worst places for African Americans economically.
Jelks says that addressing the needs of those underserved and under-represented in the tech sector is a process. He says that currently, there is little interaction between the African American community and the tech community. He says that solving the problem is a combination of increasing awareness, education, advocacy and making the right connections with the right minded people.
"It needs to be a holistic collaboration," says Jelks. "We are working to connect young people with opportunities to learn code outside of school and increase partnerships. We want this community to be more aware of internships and jobs in this sector."
Moving forward, Jelks and Hill will be organizing another tech fair and also will be exploring alliances, especially educational. He says they are in the process of creating a more formal platform to launch these events, but in the meantime, you can keep updated through the non-profit, Endless Opportunities.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor