Today, 5th grade students at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Academy in Chicago got a surprise. It was cool enough that they were doing a coding activity with Chicago Googlers as a part of Computer Science Education Week—but then another Chicago native joined the fun. When Chance The Rapper arrived, there were shouts of excitement and delight, and Chance even gave coding a try.
SocialWorks, a non profit co-founded by Chance, is on a mission to expose youth across the city to programming and to ensure they have the support necessary to reach their full potential—with access to arts, music, and coding as a means to express themselves.
Today’s visit reinforced that computer science is a part of that mission. Shortly after Chance made his coding debut, Alphabet Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, David Drummond, announced that Google.org is donating $1.5 million to to bring computer science education to students in Chicago, with $500,000 going to Chicago Public Schools’ CS4All Initiative and $1 million to SocialWorks.
The grant will help teachers implement computer science and arts curriculum in their classrooms, and it builds on $40 million in Google.org grants that provide opportunities for students underrepresented in computer science to explore the field.
Justin Cunningham, Executive Director of SocialWorks, had this to say about today’s announcement: “Our grant with Google.org helps SocialWorks provide programming that sheds light on another pathway to success for young Chicagoans. While every student doesn’t need to become a computer scientist, understanding the basics empowers them to understand the world they live in. The opportunity to help kids code to share their music, artwork, and distinct point of view is at the core of our mission and an experience we look forward to providing in classrooms across the city.”
Justin Steele, Google.org Principal who leads our work in local communities, also weighed in: “We’re honored to support SocialWorks’ mission to help underrepresented students in Chicago reach their full potential, as well as Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to turn computer science into a pathway for creative expression. There’s so much talent and creativity in the communities that these schools serve—and Chance The Rapper embodies what can happen when that creativity is unleashed. With exposure to computer science, students can use technology to turn their creative passions into something bigger.”
I’ve built my own career around computer science. At Google I helped create CS First, video-based lessons that introduce students to computer science and show them coding is a tool that, in the words of the SocialWorks mission, “lets you be you.” As a kid raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I didn’t know that I’d one day graduate with a computer science degree and end up at Google. All I knew was that I was fascinated by gadgets, which one day led to learning about the software that made them work on the inside. With the support of Google and SocialWorks, students in Chicago can also find out how their interests are connected to computer science, so that they can use those skills to build the future they imagine.
These kids will always remember the day they met Chance The Rapper. We hope they’ll remember it as the day they discovered an interest in coding, too.