The City of Santa Monica’s Youth Tech Program has been designated as a “Bright Idea” by the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
Youth Tech helps local high school students prepare to compete for lucrative careers in the Silicon Beach technology sector.
The six week program is a partnership of the city and local tech companies. It provides Santa Monica teens an overview of Information Technology and an experience of working in the tech world.
Local teens learn what it takes to form a startup company during Youth Tech. Participants begin with a week behind the scenes shadowing city IT staff, learning how technology is used for public safety, improving traffic conditions, keeping busses on time, and managing city assets.
Students configure switching hardware, design network architectures, learn to work with databases, virtualization and storage trends, agile development strategies, and engage in a scrum session coding with city web developers.
Prepared with this IT overview, the Youth Techs move to a startup incubator in Santa Monica. They spend the next five weeks learning lean startup methods and working alongside entrepreneurs, designers, and developers.
During this time, they create a socially responsible business concept; a concept ready to pitch to venture capitalists and angel investors by the end of the program. Morning talks with experts lead into afternoon working sessions where the teams apply their new knowledge in practical ways as they develop their businesses.
By Pitch Night, each team has created a concept, brand, website, forecasted return on investment, developed potential clients, and established themselves as leaders of these new enterprises.
Chief Information Officer Jory Wolf recalls, “I am always impressed by the ideas and project development that we see on pitch night. Our students set a standard of excellence that makes us all proud.”
Jamila Haji, alumna from the inaugural 2012 program and current college student, coordinates the summer program operations and recruitment efforts.
“I absolutely loved the program when I participated and found a calling during the startup launch,” Haji said. “By the second week, I was CEO of a startup offering online and in-person cooking classes to children with developmental disabilities. Youth Tech made such an impact on my life that I leveraged the program’s college internship placement assistance to land an internship with the City to support it the following year.”
Forty-six local high school students have completed the Youth Tech program. Of the participants that have already graduated from high school, 93 percent are currently attending college. 92 percent of college Youth Tech alumni are studying for tech and business careers, with 73 percent selecting STEM majors and 19 percent business majors.
Applications for the upcoming 2015 Summer Program are accepted until midnight March 15, 2015. Students attending a high school in Santa Monica may apply online at www.smgov.net/youthtech.
The Ash Center’s Bright Ideas initiative identifies and promotes promising government programs and practices so that government leaders, public servants, and other individuals can learn about these ideas and adopt initiatives that work.