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Bronx kids design Math App to become faces of major ads campaign

Talented students from Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School: left to right (background) King Lewis, Michael Bonnah and Rokiatou Sissoko (foreground) Jhony Flores, Samuel Owusu and Sherly Quezada Photo Credit: Verizon

A group of students from an inner-city school in South Bronx are stars of a high-profile nationwide ads campaign thanks to their determination to develop an innovative math app.

While in 6th grade, the team from Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School beat off stiff competition from 350 other teams across the country to win the Verizon Innovative Math Challenge. The contest encourages students to learn computer code and develop applications for mobile devices.

The six 13 year olds, who won in 2013, worked flat for several months, with the assistance of an MIT expert, to develop the Greek mythology-themed educational game. The app called QuestMath, helps users hone their math skills in fun and creative ways.

QuestMath is available for free in the Google Play store. “We decided we didn’t want the app to cost anything because if it’s free it could be available to anyone and we wanted to help people who needed support in math,” said Sherly Quezada, who is now an eighth grader.

Now, throughout February in honor of Black History Month the talented students are the faces of Verizon’s latest advertising campaign that appears in print, online and across major broadcast networks.

The initiative highlights Verizon’s commitment to empowering everyone, particularly underserved minorities, to reach their full potential, says a spokeswoman for the telecommunications company. It’s to inspire kids, and adults alike, not only to celebrate history but also to create it, she adds.

As for the winning students, their unexpected win against the odds, has completely changed their lives. They’ve all embraced a newfound confidence in their abilities and aspiring career goals in STEM related fields.

“The app challenge has opened doors for me and allowed me to see that there are more opportunities in the world,” said Jhony Flores. “Like before I wanted to become a dentist, it kind of opened my eyes and I saw that really want to become a bioengineer.”

Located in one of New York’s most socially deprived communities, the predominantly black and Latino school had scarce computing resources at the time of the competition. Principal Catherine Jackvony says the prize money of $20,000 was used to build a much-needed STEM lab.

But she also says the contest has transformed the school in other significant ways. Students now have a renewed sense of optimism about attending Bronx Academy, a one-time failing school on the brink of closure.

“This all coincided with the feeling that we can be proud of our school,” says Jackvony, who became the school’s principal in 2011 after a period of turmoil and uncertainty regarding future of Bronx Academy. “We can work hard, we can achieve, and anything is possible.”

Talented students from Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School: left to right (background) King Lewis, Michael Bonnah and Rokiatou Sissoko (foreground) Jhony Flores, Samuel Owusu and Sherly Quezada Photo Credit: Verizon

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter@Kunbiti

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Kunbi Tinuoye
Kunbi Tinuoye
Kunbi Tinuoye is the founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz. Previously, she worked as a News Correspondent for NBC’s theGrio. Prior, she was a senior broadcast journalist for the BBC in London. Tinuoye currently sits on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board and CES Conference Advisory Board. She is a key player in the Atlanta tech startup ecosystem and serves as a mentor for Comcast NBCUniversal’s The Farm Accelerator. Tinuoye has received several awards and accolades, including being honored with a Resolution from the Georgia Legislative.
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