The tech world is not exactly known for its diversity, especially when it comes to employing women, African Americans and Latinos, but new classes offered at Seaside High School are attempting to change that. For the past two years, teacher Tessa Brown has been introducing students to computer science with an elective Exploring Computer Science and Intro to Data Science class that counts as a math credit.
Brown came to Seaside High four years ago as a math instructor, and saw the need for computer science. The school’s administration jumped on board and helped Brown develop the curriculum that now reaches 120 student a year.
After two successful years, the school plans to add an advanced placement computer science class next year.
“We’re teaching kids who normally don’t have access to computer science,” Brown says. “Many don’t even have computers in their home.”
To remedy the latter, Seaside High is raising funds through the Monterey County Gives! campaign to create a laptop library so students without computers at home can still do their homework. Brown would like to raise $10,000 to purchase a dozen laptops. They’re currently at less than 5 percent of their goal.
“Before I was in high school I read biographies about people like Steve Jobs,” says Leslie Miranda, a student who would benefit from a laptop library. “I saw what he did and it really inspired me. There aren’t many girls in computer science, but we really need to be here.”
The students involved in the computer science program are aiming high. All six, seated around a conference table with their teacher on a recent afternoon, say that they want to pursue a college degree in computer science. The names of Google, Facebook and Apple are all given as places they’d like to work.
“I want to be the next George Lucas,” says Kyle Achico.
High school computer science classes also give Seaside High students the prerequisites needed to participate in the CSU Monterey Bay and Hartnell College’s CSin3 program, where students can earn a bachelor’s degree in just three years, Brown says.
“Seventy-five percent of our students are economically disadvantaged,” says Seaside High School Principal Carlos Juan Moran. “Many don’t have computers at home, and if they do, some are very old. We need to be able to provide our students technology so they don’t fall behind.”