From IT-oLogy Charlotte Executive Director, Kay Read:
Clarissa Rainear, a talented Providence HS junior, is interested in pursuing computer science/information technology as a career and frequently discussed the importance of computer science with her classmates. She requested an interview with me with the purpose to learn about IT-oLogy and its work in the Charlotte branch. Clarissa planned to submit a feature article for her annual high school literary magazine, Roars and Whispers.
Not only was Clarissa’s article published, she recently shared with me that her feature article, “Behind the Screen,” was recently awarded first place for the Literary Magazine Feature Article category by the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association! This is one of the highest honors that writing can be awarded in this state. Congratulations to Clarissa, a rising leader in IT.
Behind the Screen
Thousands of fingers punch thousands of keys on thousands of phones. Text message alerts chime like birdsong amidst the click of smartphone cameras and the vibrations of social media posts. Our world is an endless stream of filters and likes, six-second videos, pinning and snapchatting. We are the Information Generation. But beneath the crisp white homepage of YouTube lie thousands of lines of computer code, the secret language that dictates just how big a thumbs-up icon is and what happens when “Miley Cyrus” is typed into a search bar. IT-oLogy is a non-profit organization created to address the shortage of information technicians who write this code.
Kay Read, Executive Director of IT-oLogy in Charlotte, works to connect local students with the “ecosystem of information technology” in Charlotte. “When kids think about IT,” says Read, “they think they’ll have to work behind a computer all day coding, but that’s just one of the many different information technology jobs. There’s also an idea that it’s too geek, and the thought of ‘I can’t do that.’ But you can do it.”
Cyber Saturdays, an IT-oLogy program underwritten by Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds effort, offers middle and high school students the opportunity to get hands-on experience with information technology. Over three hundred participants have learned to write code and build their own websites while working with professionals in the field. Read says their goal is to “connect with anyone who is interested in IT,” even providing computers for those who may not have technology access at home. Cyber Saturdays touch “so many students and volunteers and parents,” Read says. “It’s part of that awareness effort. The greater number of people we can connect to, the better.”
IT-oLogy also partners with local and national companies to create student internships. Companies who participate in these internships often hire their student interns after graduation. These internships, along with scholarship awards to students interested in information technology, reflect IT-oLogy’s goal of incorporating information technology into educational programs. Local schools are beginning to recognize the importance of technology education. CMS is offering an increasing number of computer courses, including AP Computer Science, Computer Programming, and Multimedia and Web Design.
IT-oLogy has already connected hundreds of students to new career possibilities. A local museum in Columbia, South Carolina, asked the nonprofit to recruit teenagers to prepare a website for their latest exhibit. One student, known for her talent in fashion design, originally declined to participate because she did not believe that art was an important aspect of computer science. But after watching students in IT-oLogy work on webpage design, her interest in information technology grew. To her surprise, the design process tied directly into her love of art. She is now seeking a major in computer science and information technology.
Kay Read and IT-oLogy are looking forward to creating a thriving information technology community in Charlotte. “There is a perception that Charlotte is a consumer of technology, but not a creator of it,” states Read. “We want to put Charlotte on the technology map.” Perhaps we can look forward to an Instagrammed #ThrowbackThursday contrasting 2014 Charlotte, mere consumer of IT, with a future Charlotte flourishing as a hub of technology innovations.