Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri visited the AT&T Coding and Tech Camp to meet and talk with the 25 students who participated in this unique educational program on the importance of engaging in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and career path.

The two-week-long free program held at the Mohawk Valley Community College Utica Campus was created and hosted by Tech4Kidz and MVCC’s thINCubator. In addition, Picente and Palmieri toured the program, and students demoed their final projects, which focused on curbing cyberbullying and promoting online safety through technology. Also in attendance was Greeley Ford, AT&T senior technical consulting engineer, and Mela Hrustic from New York State Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon’s office.

The AT&T Coding and Tech Camp was designed to encourage more local students to enter the field of technology — specifically coding, an industry that is growing exponentially. To eliminate economic barriers and to ensure the program was diverse, AT&T contributed $25,000 to cover all costs of the camp.

The high school participants learned computer coding basics, heard from mentors and professional coders on the many career opportunities available, and were educated on how technology and computer science can be used for good to create solutions to address issues impacting youth of the region, such as cyberbullying and good digital citizenship. The camp also connected students with team-based coding projects designed to make a difference in their schools and community, while providing hands-on experience developing their own technology. The students were mentored by local tech professionals, educators, and advocates to identify and design coding solutions, learn Python coding computer programming language, Raspberry Pi’s, digital storyboards, animated movies, and games and basic websites, while going on field trips to see technology at work in the community and at colleges. The students also had a unique opportunity to learn about and build robotics.

Coding is quickly becoming the new literacy and is the driver of all new digital technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor, much of the growth in the domestic and global economy will come from STEM-related jobs — a highly lucrative and competitive field. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of computer and coding careers, underscoring the importance of providing the youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in this innovation economy. These statistics emphasize the importance of providing youth education programming like the AT&T Coding and Tech Camp.

“AT&T is proud to collaborate with Tech4Kidz, MVCC’s thINCubator, and MVCC to develop and support this innovative experience for local students as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for STEM-related educational programming throughout the Mohawk Valley and across the state,” said Amy Kramer, president, New York, AT&T. “I am so impressed by these remarkable students and am blown away by their final projects using technology to curb cyberbullying and promote online safety — critical issues that AT&T is dedicated to addressing. It was also an honor to have County Executive Picente and Mayor Palmieri tour the program and provide motivational remarks to the impressive local student participants.”
“These invaluable partnerships are so important to bolstering the future of our youth,” Picente said.“We have continued to push the envelope when it comes to STEM education here in Oneida County and will continue to do so. This AT&T Coding and Tech Camp is a prime example of what we can accomplish through collaboration, and I applaud Tech4Kidz and MVCC for helping to foster opportunities for our students through technology and innovation.”

“With most jobs in the future relying on technology, it is important for students to learn how to code, and in doing so, they learn problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,” said Pam Puri, camp director and founder of Tech4Kidz. “Tech4Kidz instructors made a real impact on the students, and their enthusiasm and knowledge provided an important foundation of coding skills to the students. It was an exciting two weeks in which they built their own personal websites from scratch with embedded content about cyberbullying and online safety. These enrichment camps can only be made possible by AT&T’s continued support and their active role in promoting STEM in our community. We also want to thank our partners, the Mohawk Valley Community College Foundation and thINCubator, for their support and contribution to this camp.”

“We are very appreciative to have been able to partner with AT&T and Tech4Kidz to bring this Coding and Tech Summer Camp opportunity to the Mohawk Valley,” said Stacey Smith, director of operations at MVCC's thINCubator. “Supporting our local youth in coding and STEM education is very important to us as we aim to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem that helps students think with an innovative mindset, problem-solve, and learn coding skills that contribute to one of the fastest-growing sectors in our economy.”

AT&T’s support for this program is part of the company’s legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM disciplines in New York through AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature $500 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, programming, employee volunteerism, and mentoring. Aspire is one of the nation’s largest corporate commitments focused on school success and workforce readiness by creating new learning environments and educational delivery systems to help students succeed and prepare them to take on 21st-century careers.

“We know that the students of today are the workforce of tomorrow,” said Palmieri. “That’s why it’s essential that we give them the resources and the chance to compete with children not just across the nation, but across the globe.I'd like to thank AT&T, MVCC, and Tech4Kidz for giving our children that chance. Given the tools, our children can compete with anyone, and we’re glad some partners have stepped up to do that.”

“At Mohawk Valley Community College, we are committed to helping students achieve their highest potential by providing top-quality education and training in cutting-edge skills,” said Frank B. DuRoss, MVCC’s vice president of community development and executive director of the MVCC Foundation, Institutional Advancement. “This program offered an outstanding opportunity for local youth to develop coding and tech skills that can open new doors to education, high-income jobs, and a thriving economic outlook — not just for those students, but also for the region as we build the next-generation workforce. The MVCC Foundation is proud to have been a partner in this program to increase the skills and develop career awareness and possibilities for our community’s young people.”