This 15-Year-Old Set Up a Virtual Camp to Get More Black Kids in Tech

Chicago teen Ian Michael Brock co-founded a nonprofit organization called Dream Hustle Code, dedicated to bringing computer science education to youth from communities underrepresented in tech. And he's asking for $1 donations to make it more accessible to teens.

When Ian Michael Brock was just 8 years old, his mom, Dulcevita, encouraged him to watch a "cool video" about computer science. He was more interested in finishing his homework and going to bed. But then, he noticed one of his favorite NBA stars, Chris Bosh, talking about his love of coding in the clip.

"Someone who looked like me was doing computer science," Brock, now 15, later told Education Week of the moment. "I watched it like 10 times."

Now, Brock is the face of a Chicago-based nonprofit organization founded by his family called Dream Hustle Code, which is dedicated to "leveling the tech-playing field so kids from underrepresented and underestimated communities have access, opportunities, and exposure to computer science."

Through a bevy of programs, Dream Hustle Code aims to stoke kids' appetite for learning about CS and coding. And this summer, Brock has launched the New Nerd Virtual Summer Camp.

Ian Michael Brock
Photo courtesy of Ian Michael Brock

The eight-week program, which begins on July 13, combines computer programming and personal development for fifth through ninth graders. In a live online class, students will be introduced to JavaScript and Google's Grasshopper Application. Plus, there's a signature twist: Brock adds popular music to the class for extra fun.

According to the Dream Hustle Code website, the organization launched the program in an effort to support families by making sure that kids continue to explore their curiosity and stay mentally engaged all summer long, particularly as many in-person camps have been canceled.

Brock is also spearheading a campaign to raise funds to make the $150 camp free for 1,000 students. He's asking for just $1 from donors, in order to "make it possible for more students of color to see that technology opportunities are available for them too." After all, as he tells, "With so much going on in Chicago this summer, from concerns about the COVID-19 uncertainty, to rising violence in Black and Brown communities, we don't want our price to stop a kid from getting a chance at reshaping their future."

Brock's mission sheds light on the glaring issue of racial inequality in tech, referred to as a digital divide. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Silicon Valley's tech workforce is just 2.2 percent Black and 4.7 percent Hispanic.

The key to addressing racial, education, and economic inequality is modeling, according to Brock. He believes "if a child can see it, then they can be it." The 15-year-old says, "I want to be, for other Black and Brown kids, the coach and mentor that I wish I had when I got started in my computer science journey."

He continues, "Computer science and technology hold the key to the economic future for Black and Brown communities. The more kids from my generation that we get onboard, the quicker we can move toward stronger families, stronger communities—even a stronger country."

No doubt that, at just 15 years old, Brock is already making a significant impact and setting the stage for crucial change.

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