August 17, 2023

Minnesota-Based Tech Geeks Lets Black Students Earn While They Learn

Tech Geeks

Minnesota-based non-profit organization 30,000 Feet (30K) is providing young people of color with the opportunity to earn while they learn through its Tech Geeks program.

30,000 Feet

Kevin Robinson and Vanessa Young founded 30K to empower African American students in Saint Paul, Minnesota, through technology, culture, art and social justice. 

Their project-based experiences are intended to reach students in ways traditional learning may not.

They aim to inspire African American youth by giving them the confidence to believe in themselves and their endless potential.

What do Tech Geeks Offer?

30K’s Tech Geeks program provides practical technology education and employment for teenagers living in poverty, with 50% of jobs going to teens involved in the juvenile delinquency system.

“We’re disproportionately left out of tech opportunities, so we want to ensure that young people are equipped with the knowledge. The competitive knowledge,” said Vanessa Young, co-founder of 30,000 Feet.

Each Monday to Thursday, Tech Geek offers cohorts between the ages of 14 and 18 to earn at least $15 per hour whilst doing the course.

They help students take control of their futures while expanding the number of African Americans who pursue a career in computer science. They also ensure students have a job history to offset their criminal record.

Tech Geeks learn the coding language skills to build video games, apps, and websites while developing their portfolios and resumes.

After completing the course, students are awarded a coding certificate and can be placed in an IT internship.

Making a change for students

Cynthia Criss, a 16-year-old attending Harding High School in St. Paul, previously joined Tech Geeks and told MPR News that she didn’t know much about coding before joining.

“I just had a stereotype of how I would think a coder would look, and I’m like… I’ve never seen a Black girl like me, or somebody my skin tone and a girl doing coding – like I would picture somebody probably white.”

After completing the program, Criss works as an IT web and mobile development intern at HealthPartners. 

The next step for 30K is starting an entrepreneurship and business training course.

Young said her favorite part of the process is sending the students back into the community, where they can apply the newly learned knowledge.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.