Mission EDC Awarded Grant to Expand RGV Computer Science Education

Computer program coding on screen
Computer program coding on screen

CSforALL (Computer Science for ALL), the national hub of the computer science for all movement with a mission to make high-quality computer science an integral part of K-12 education in the United States, has named the Rio Grande Valley one of 10 communities in its inaugural EcoSystemforCS cohort, awarding the Mission Economic Development Corporation $15,000 to expand access to computer science education.

Mission EDC will match the donation and use the funds to build equity through two key programs with its nonprofit partner, Youth Code Jam: the hosting of a Low-Sensory Code Jam for neurodiverse students and their families and the distribution of 10 bilingual “Jam in a Box” kits to Title 1 schools. The kits, combined with teacher professional development, will equip educators in four RGV cities to host their own campus-based Community Code Jams. Jams are free family engagement events that provide hands-on opportunities for students and adults to explore digital game development, cyber security, online safety, virtual reality and more without requiring teachers to have any previous experience or background with coding.

“By being named one of the first Ecosystems for CS, the RGV will be recognized by the rest of the nation as a pioneer in systemic approaches to increasing K-12 computer science education,” said Cristina Garza, director of social impact for the Mission Economic Development Corporation and the project lead for CSforRGV, the adopted name for the ecosystem. “We are at a crucial point in our history — our kids are going to school without any of us knowing the jobs that will exist for them once they become adults. The majority of jobs they will encounter have not yet been invented. The best way to prepare youth for an uncertain future is by building their communication and critical-thinking skills, resilience, emotional intelligence, and creativity. Taking a computer science class allows students to enhance all of these skills by learning through curiosity, experimentation, and failures, which is what working with computers requires.”

“We are excited to partner with Mission EDC and CSforRGV as they continue to focus their work on broadening participation in computer science education in innovative ways,” said Debi Pfitzenmaier, founding executive director of Youth Code Jam. “We are looking forward to sharing with students, parents and teachers the multitude of opportunities that exist with coding skills and the many pathways to get there. By leveraging our work with neurodiverse populations and our unique model for family engagement, combining it with the energy and engagement of industry, school districts, teachers and parents, CSforRGV is going to help build that diverse workforce for our future.”