Honolulu-based tech startup Hobnob Invites has recently partnered with the Alpha Esquires, a mentor program serving adolescent boys in Los Angeles, CA. The company’s CEO is leading a new tech initiative introducing the mentees, mostly African American, to the world of computer coding.
Founded in 2010 by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Esquires program helps young men grades 7-12 with academics, college preparation, and career exploration by exposing them to diverse professionals in various fields. They also teach students the importance of community involvement by including social awareness and volunteering components.
The Esquires, formerly known as the Alpha MEN-tor Program, strongly emphasize the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum in order to prepare the cohort for SAT/ACT exams. Now, with the help of Hobnob Invites, the kids will receive hands-on programming experience from professional web developers.
Hobnob is a mobile app that allows its users to manage event invitations via text message and enables seamless media sharing between attendees. The company’s passionate staff is heading the Alpha Esquires’ Tech Initiative in an attempt to encourage the young members to pursue careers in technology. In an interview with UrbanGeekz, Hobnob CEO Tina Fitch explained why her successful startup decided to partner with this non-profit organization.
“I’ve known mentors of the program for years, and after seeing their amazing commitment to creating such an impactful, comprehensive program, I joined their board,” she states. “Our goals for providing opportunities for these young men were aligned, and as Hobnob’s success is based on our diversity, and our service is about using technology to enhance our humanity, it was a clear fit.”
A close advisor to Fitch is Tommy Hanks, a mobile architect for Hobnob and founder of Innovation Foundry (iFoundry), a non-profit organization that teaches community members how to code. Hanks’ experience with iFoundry, as well as a career in successful app development, made him the ideal candidate to lead the Esquires.
Hanks told UrbanGeekz: “The most enjoyable part of working with kids like these is witnessing the excitement they have when they realize that there is a real potential for their app idea to come to fruition; that if they really want it, they can make it themselves.”
The main goal of this initiative is to encourage young men in urban settings to explore any propensity they have towards programming and web development by exposing them to fundamental concepts. Through this exposure to computer science, many students will become engaged with subject matter and career pathways they may not have previously considered.
It is widely agreed that diversity in the tech industry is needed and there are few successful entrepreneurs more vocal and active in this cause than CEO Fitch. She proudly states, “We live and breathe diversity, and have team members involved in various organizations that benefit youth from different underrepresented groups.” She continues, “The tech industry needs to represent different perspectives and world views. We can’t not be a part of a movement that represents our own team’s values.”
For many urban youngsters, the outlook on a future post-high school may often be unclear or misguided. Growing up in underserved areas, high in crime and unemployment, many young men become products of negative surroundings. Countless professional athletes and musicians who resemble these students, and escape the same neighborhoods, provide relatable examples of success that many wish to emulate. The chances of stardom in those glamorous positions are slim for most and there is a need for more prevalent occupations to become as coveted.
Fitch believes: “Every child should have the opportunity to hope, to dream, to believe he or she can affect change in this world – but every child should also be given the tools to achieve those dreams for him/herself. Giving urban youth access to these skills and seeing that sense of empowerment rise in them is the most fulfilling result of my career in this field.”
In 2017, the Esquires will begin a free, six-month curriculum where they’ll be taught coding online through iFoundry. By next summer, the Esquires will also have the opportunity to participate in a new STEM program. The effectiveness of the Tech Initiative will be judged by how many mentees continue their computer science education after they complete this introductory course.