I am an Americorps Vista Volunteer. The VISTA mission: Make Poverty History. My journey began with training in Atlanta, Georgia, learning about poverty and the importance of giving those who want opportunities those opportunities. For some, America is seen as the land of opportunity, and being so makes so many people want to live here in the United States.
My Americorps placement is at a non-profit called Boys and Girls Club. They want to transform youth and give them a safe structured place to be during the after school time hours. I have been placed in Pryor, Oklahoma. Pryor is located on the northeast part of Oklahoma state, called Green Country. The club is in the area of the Cherokee Nation. I have been here for about four months, spreading computer science joy with the CS first curriculum. The CS First curriculum is part of the unique partnership with Google that is video based and allows youth to learn block coding and problem solving skills.
When I first arrived to Oklahoma, there had been serious flooding so the water levels were high, and the mosquitoes and the chiggers were happy. I was not happy, because I scratched non-stop for the first three weeks of living in Oklahoma. I was awoken at midnight by my phone which told me flood levels were at a dangerous level for the area that I was living. C0-workers mentioned they had felt the earth shake, and I was told that the area is on a fault line, and that earthquakes are possible. I meet the great kids in the Boys and Girls Clubs who were “code talkers” form the beginning. I am a stranger to this town, so the code they were talking was not what I was familiar with.
CS First is a video based computer science program that has many themes to choose from. The Story Telling theme has been completed by our “code talkers” in a total of about 10 club meetings. The age minimum was 9 years of age. The club members were inventive and made the club fun. The danced freely to “It is raining taco’s”. We finished the last day of club learning how to “Hang Out” on google’s video conferencing, and leaning about “cookies” (and eating some cookies). Our favorite club drink so far? Right size Sprites.
The biggest challenge is lack of internet. The CS First Site (found at http://www.cs-first.com/) and the Scratch site (found at https://scratch.mit.edu/) needs internet to be able to run the club. The second biggest challenge is being a stranger in this town. Parents do not want me to work with their kids because I am an unknown. The final challenge is trying to make a quota, by myself, without internet connection, because I believe the goal is unrealistic for a stranger in this country that I have been assigned. However, I do believe that a lot of groundwork could be down in this one year assignment. The youth seem to like the chance to learn about code and they all seem to have the natural ability to talk code.
Is has been four months as a VISTA working at an allowance that keeps me in the poverty line. My professional development has been wonderful and beyond anything I could have imagined. I have been to the GooglePlex at Mountain View, California, learning about CS First Curriculum which can be found at http://www.cs-first.com/
The Googlers have impressed on me how they work as a team to get amazing goals accomplished and to “do no evil”. They have a self driving car after all!!! I have had cutting edge training on Service Enterprise, Volunteer Recruitment, Fundraising, and Vlogging though video conferencing. I am in a Cherokee language class where I learned why they have “Sleepy Traveler” motels, and that languages are dying everyday. I took a Bridges out of Poverty training class where I learned I had a mental class mentality, and why working with those who have a Poverty mentality needs to be approached differently than my approach.
My first three months was spent in training, getting oriented to the new area that I work in, working on recruiting volunteers to help expand the CS First Clubs so that more youth can learn about computer science, starting a volunteer appreciation program, and learning about stereotypes by reviewing three books that were recommend as must reads. One of those must reads were Whistling Vivaldi by Dr. Claude. I participated in a Book Salon about Whistling Vivaldi, which helped me consider what I should be doing in a CS First Club. Through this work I have learned much about stereotypes in computer science, and the importance of giving youth the opportunity to be exposed to computer science and technology.
Currently, I am excited to be planning Code Jam events for the Boys and Girls Club members, so that they can get exposure to computer science and have fun while coding. My goal is not to make them code talkers, because they were Code Talkers before I ever came to this town (if you knew enough Cherokee to know what Sleepy Traveler is code for you would understand why I believe they have been Code Talkers for centuries). My goal is to give them the chance to gain experience in coding so that they can succeed in whatever career they choose. Perhaps they will be the next code talkers for Google.