It was bitter cold outside when Jonathan Jelks and Alvin Hill IV officially launched The Midwest Tech Mentoring Program
at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Feb. 11.
But, inside, it was 'en fuego.’
The kick-off was on fire with optimism, ideas and plans to prepare more young men and women for careers in technology.
The venue was packed. The audience was diverse: parents, students; educators; tech, business and nonprofit professionals; entrepreneurs; and representatives from local government. Young and old. They all gathered to learn more about an initiative that promises to connect inner city youth of color to the career opportunities within the knowledge and creative economies.
Jelks introduced a variety of speakers, including Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, all of whom were enthusiastic supporters of the program.
"Our mission is to educate, engage and to expose inner city youth to the world of technology and the opportunities available in the tech industry in Grand Rapids,” he says.
Jelks envisions a program that features hands-on learning (software development, coding, program management and design) and mentorship with local tech professionals.
"We want to teach kids about about the benefits of becoming an IT professional and/or tech entrepreneur,” Jelks explains. “We also want kids and parents alike to walk away with a thorough understanding of what it will take from an education standpoint to be able to take advantage of the creative economy."
There is still much work to be done, but Jelks and Hill plan to launch the formal program in May 2016.
"We will be fundraising to get the equipment needed to run our program and to hire our staff,” Jelks says. “We are recruiting mentors from Grand Rapid's tech community. We will be going out to Silicon Valley in March to meet with different tech companies to learn about the ‘Diversity in IT’ programs that are working and receiving support."
To learn more about the program, including contact information and how to get involved, you can follow their Facebook event page here.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
Photos by Tricia Leigh Jackson / Start Garden