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30 High-Tech Philadelphia Teens Take Their Programming Skills to the White House

During spring break, 30 African American and Latino teens from Philadelphia, PA traveled to Washington, DC for an unprecedented meeting with White House National Security Advisors and special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to discuss how their growing expertise in programming will help keep the nation safe. What a major accomplishment this was, as Philadelphia and other large cities are closing schools.

The students, ages 13-18, have been studying computer science, programming and mobile apps development at Temple University’s Math, Engineering & Science Achievement (MESA) program. After four months their efforts have paid off in a big way.

“In February, President Obama cited cyber attacks as one of the leading threats to our nation’s security. Age is no longer a barrier. If you have skills in computer science and technology it’s likely you’ll be on the front line to help protect yourself, your family, your company or even our nation from a new kind of war. It’s not just fun and games anymore,” stated Dr. Jamie Bracey, STEM education expert and director of the initiative at Temple University.

This is the second trip for the team, which includes students from 12 high schools and 3 middle schools across the tough streets of N. Philadelphia. Last December through a grant from urban retailer Villa, members of the team traveled to Silicon Valley for meetings with software engineers from Google and a special programming session at Stanford University. “We want to onboard them quickly, immerse them in the technology eco-system so they’re fearless about global opportunities,” added Emmy-award winning tech expert Dean Harris, who was the catalyst for the program.

The award-winning program has produced four national engineering scholarship winners and contracts to develop Navy apps in less than one year.

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