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Tech Journey returns for second year with more students, stronger mission

Last year Tech Journey hosted its inaugural camp to get students interested in and exposed to technology. 

Last year Tony Kioko and a team of other local IT professionals did what, at the time, seemed impossible. 

They created a nonprofit—Tech Journey—to help empower Des Moines students with limited access to resources to take an interest in technology. 

Now, after what Kioko calls a successful first run, the group is prepping for its second summer camp, currently its primary means of reaching local students. 

“Our first year was really about the concept, about creating a minimum viable product, and we found great success,” he told SPN. 

Hosted by the Des Moines-based nonprofit, Tech Journey’s summer camp returns July 15-18. The free program will again offer a range of different technology-focused activities for minority and lower-income middle schoolers who otherwise may not have had the opportunity.

Kioko says addressing the lack of minority representation in tech is more important now than ever. By 2020, the U.S. will see 1.4 million new tech jobs, but currently only 9.2 percent of the tech community is Black or Latino. 

“If you don’t start that pipeline of minority candidates now, then you start getting to the point where you’ve always got a shortage of people who can fill that role,” Kioko (right) said.

“The average net worth of a black family is about $5,000 [compared to $111,000 for whites]. Think about how much IT jobs pay and how much more of an opportunity that provides someone.”

For the camp’s second iteration, the program will welcome 40 students—roughly 20 of whom are returning after last year’s camp—to its full-day program. 

“One of the big questions we’ve been asking ourselves is, ‘How do we continue to engage kids after the camp?'” Kioko said. “You know, we’re giving these kids laptops, but I’m sure many of them don’t have Internet access in their homes.”

The question is something he and Tech Journey’s team of leaders are still trying to figure out. Kioko says in the future he hopes to have weekend courses to teach things like basic web design and HTML, but for now, Tech Journey is focused on inspiring the community’s young people to take an interest in technology. 

“Ten years from now when you think about something like [the Technology Association of Iowa’s] Prometheus Awards, hopefully some of our kids will be up there receiving those awards,” Kioko said. “Hopefully they’ll be a part of this startup community.”

For more on Tech Journey, read our previous coverage: “Des Moines nonprofit begins journey with students at tech camp.” 

Credits: Photos from Tech Journey. 

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