Five years ago, All Star Code was founded to introduce more young men of color to computer science. Now, fresh off raising more than $1 million, the non-profit is looking to expand beyond its current outposts in New York and Pittsburgh.
"Gender equity in computer science is extremely important," founder and CEO Christina Lewis told Cheddar. "But what's little known is that there are boys who are under-represented in computer science and in the industry. Black and Latino boys, in particular, are under-represented."
She says All Star Code differs from similar ventures that aim to teach programming skills to marginalized groups, in that many of the others focus on young women, particularly young women of color, rather than young men of color.
"Tech is the engine of job growth and innovation right now. We have to open access by teaching coding, and young men of color were being forgotten," she explained. "There's this race to leave no one behind, and I believe young men of color were being left behind."
While African Americans hold about 14 percent of private-sector positions overall, the number is just 7 percent in the for-profit technology sector, according to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Furthermore, African Americans make up less than 1 percent of executive positions at "leading Silicon Valley firms," according to the commission. The representation of Hispanic employees with these positions is only slightly higher, at 1.6 percent.
All Star Code's programming begins with high school-level intensives, and its staff continues to provide support throughout a graduates' college studies. Lewis said 80 percent of All Star Code alumni major or minor in computer science in college, and that a large share of its students are first-generation college students.
All Star Code also works closely with the tech industry and has received funding from companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and Comcast. Students are taught on-site at companies like Goldman Sachs and Google.
Gary Coltrane, who graduated from All Star Code's program in 2014, said that at his college "about less than 1 percent" of his peers majoring in computer science were African American or Latino. Today, he's working on technology ventures that assist formerly-incarcerated individuals.