Going one step further

Beyond taking core STEM subjects and learning more about technology innovation, the Startup Middle School will offer more entrepreneurial classes, such as marketing and fiscal management.

“Currently the involvement of people of color in the technological wave is largely on the periphery,” said Maqubela. “We make up a huge percentage of the consumers of the various prevalent technologies, yet few of us are the creators of this technology. Currently, less than 3 percent of the IT workforce in Silicon Valley is black or Latino.”

Through the Startup Middle School, educators are hoping to “demystify” the backend of technology for students, as well as provide them the skills to not only create the tools of the future, but turn their ideas into viable business ventures.

Students learning anatomy.

Students learning anatomy.

“We want them to feel like they have ownership of a seat at the table of innovation,” explained Maqubela. “Specifically, they should be able to create, enhance, and manipulate digital tools…by learning what it takes to bring their ideas to life, and then make them real for the greater society through business lets them know that life does not have to dictate to them, but rather, they can dictate their life.”

The program pairs students with computer science teachers and leading experts in such fields as marketing, crowd fundraising, communications, fiscal management, and budgeting.

Currently, students are working on projects that include:

  • A budgeting tool for teens when they get their first job
  • An app that fights cyber bullying by “sanitizing” individuals’ social media accounts
  • A tool that helps young people always dress fashionably

A multi-year assessment component is built into the larger program model; and for the current school year, Startup School is already slated to work with the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Urban League to form an after-school program for the population they serve.

Students presenting a project.

Students presenting a project.

In addition to funding the pilot of the Startup Middle School program last year, Microsoft, Comcast, and The Washington Post will also provide a portion of the year-long program for 2013-14. However, this support does not cover the full program cost, and the school is still actively looking to expand its network of partners.

“Nationally, we all have to stand up and demand that no child be neglected and written off,” Maqubela said. “Over our eight years, we’ve demonstrated, time and again, that with the proper supports, resources, and dedicated faculty and staff, all students will soar. We are actively looking to work together in partnership with others–schools, institutions, corporations, and more–who share this core belief.”