Alexandria Prather, Director of Strategic Partnerships of All Star Code
Alexandria Prather is Director of Strategic Partnerships and the latest member of the senior staff at All Star Code.
What’s your background?
I’m originally from Indianapolis. I did undergrad at Indiana University (go Hoosiers!) where I majored in International Studies & Spanish, and then American University in Washington DC, where I earned a Masters in Public Policy.
When I was in DC doing my Masters, I interned at the White House and worked in Leader Nancy Pelosi’s and Representative André Carson’s office. I also worked at The Brookings Institution, a century-old American research group on Think Tank Row in Washington, D.C.
It was all the DC things, basically. I loved DC. There was a lot of really good energy in the air when I first moved there in 2011. I really believed in the Obama administration, and to work and support it felt like being a part of history.
What brought you to the nonprofit world?
After the midterms, when the Republicans won the house and the congressional gridlock started to get really bad, I started to feel like nothing was happening at the federal level. I began to work in the Brookings Institution: Metropolitan Policy Program, and started to see how with economic development at regional and city levels, you could see real things happening, real changes.
That work eventually took me to the Surdna Foundation, which is a national foundation that seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States. My program was focused on strengthening local economies, and we funded economic research & development, as well as pilot programs at local levels. Coming from the government, where change was always incredibly slow and full of red tape, it was super exciting to be able to see and effect change directly. Oftentimes you’d find that organizations led by people of color, and especially women of color, were severely underfunded. It was wonderful to be able to come in as a national funder and leverage my funding relationships to bring in more resources to great organizations.
I was at Surdna for three years. I travelled all around the country, and it was really fascinating to see how cities approached equitable economic development in places like Texas, California, Chicago, etc., and how each environment had its own challenges and limitations. For example, minimum wage campaigns could win in blue cities states and pass, but in more conservative states, like North Carolina, local policy wins would get blocked by a pre-emption bill. It was enlightening, and also really frustrating, to see people build the infrastructure for progress and change for years and then suddenly have the state government swoop in and crush it overnight.
How did you find All Star Code?
At Surdna, I got really interested in entrepreneurship, and tech, and high-growth industries. A lot of the work I was doing was helping today’s entrepreneurs realize their dreams, but I was always interested in preparing for the future economy, the innovation economy. I wanted to know: How are we preparing people of color, and traditionally marginalized communities to participate in the future economy? How can we make sure everyone is everyone is able to participate? So I looked too young people.
Coding is such an essential skill, even in jobs that wouldn’t seem to “require it.” What I’ve learned working here is that beyond even being a useful and marketable skill, coding is a way of thinking. It’s a tool that any person can use to analyze, dissect, and solve a problem.
Bottom line: I’ve always wanted to shift the conversation from “How do we get people of color out of low-paying jobs?” to “How can we give people of color the tools to be the economic engines of their own communities?” All Star Code feels like the perfect answer.
What do you do here?
As the Director of Strategic Partnerships, I work to secure partnerships with corporations and foundations that we can use to benefit and help our students during the Summer Intensive and beyond. I also work to find ways that can benefit our partners in return.
What do you do for fun?
SoulCycle! I love the loud music, dancing, and positive energy, and I love working hard. I played basketball and soccer growing up and so I’m naturally a pretty competitive person. I also travel as much as I can. I lived in Spain for a summer in high school and loved it, so I caught the travel bug early. Madrid is probably my favourite city; it feels like a really old Chicago with amazing food. I went back two summers ago and it felt so familiar, and that’s really cool.