Dev

URBAN TxT helps at-risk kids learn to code, avoid gangs, & stay in school

Image Credit: URBAN Txt

URBAN TxT, a Los Angeles program teach young minority kids to build iPhone apps, open-source technologies, and Facebook apps, is raising $100,000 via nonprofit crowdfunding site Razoo to help black and Latino kids avoid gangs, learn to code, and stay in school.

Not to mention saving the state of California a wad of cash by not going to jail.

“Fifty-five percent of these kids will drop out of high school,” URBAN TxT founder Oscar Menjivar told me last week. “And 70 percent of those will be unemployed or incarcerated by the time they would have graduated from high school.”

URBAN Txt, or urban Teens eXploring Technology, is looking to change that. The organization, which has been partially funded by Edison and the Durfee Foundation, teaches kids HTML, CSS, and Javascript using tools like Codecademy. Some teens also learn PHP or Objective-C, with which they can build iPhone apps.

One of the teams discussing ways to improve their web app

Above: Teens working at URBAN Txt

Image Credit: Urban Txt

The results have been impressive so far.

Kids who participate stay in school — with a 95 percent program retention rate — and a full 100 percent of them go to college, all shocking statistics for inner-city South L.A. kids of color. The program costs about $1,000 per teen, and since it costs the state $47,000 a year to incarcerate them, it’s a pretty good deal.

Perhaps even more important than keeping kids out of gangs and off the streets, the program also gives young minority youth the ability to dream again.

“Let me tell you just one story,” Menjivar said. “I took a kid up to Google headquarters — one of the kids kept saying he wouldn’t go. We got to Google, and he saw a janitor working there. He asked if Google could hire him to clean up, but the guy giving the tour said Google didn’t need him here as a janitor — Google needed him as a developer who would help change the world.”

That teen, Jesus, went from barely clinging on in school with a 2.3 GPA to a 3.8 GPA. And a world of possibilities opened up.

“That’s what it takes to help kids see,” Menjivar says.

Kids learning to code at URBAN Txt

Above: Kids learning to code at URBAN Txt

Image Credit: URBAN Txt

The program could only afford to accept 35 kids last year, turning away another 120 teens who wanted to join. This year, Menjivar wants to triple the number of participants to 100, by raising needed funds from people who care about youth, technology, and the future of America. The crowdfunding campaign on Razoo will help expand the program to two schools in South Los Angeles and Watts — home of the infamous riot 1965 — and create a Technology Innovation Hub in south L.A.

Some of the apps the kids have already built have helped community organizations connect with interested volunteers, helped inner-city citizens find and access healthy food, and helped kids like them get practice taking the SAT exam in a cool ninja fighting game.

“We know there’s a need and a hunger for knowledge,” Menjivar told me. “We need to bring in more staff, more volunteers, and reach out to more schools … and we need help from all those who say we’re doing a great thing.”

Here’s URBAN Txt’s crowdfunding campaign.


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