Zendaya and Google have teamed up to give back to students at Roses in Concrete Community School in East Oakland.
The school, which received an initial $750, 000 from Google.org, has received another $650,000 investment to fund an innovative computer science curriculum. Roses aims to create a model for urban education that places importance on the needs of youth and families in the community.
In an interview with ESSENCE, the actress and Justin Steele, a Principal at Google.org, discussed the importance of providing the school with the fund to support computer science and why they chose to team up for the cause.
ESSENCE: Why was it so important to team up with for this project and what impact do you think the grant will have on students at Roses?
Zendaya: Roses is a very special school. They are reinventing how we teach our young people, especially in underserved communities, by creating new and exciting ways for kids to learn information through arts programs and STEM, while also allowing them to learn and embrace their own culture and identities.
Justin: As a child of educators and an Oakland native, Zendaya grew up in the classroom and has a deep understanding of how education can help young people from neighborhoods like East Oakland reach their full potential. Zendaya is role model that kids from her hometown can relate to and aspire to be like; she moves people with her art and leverages technology to reach millions. We hope more kids will follow Zendaya’s example and use their education to solve problems in their own communities and beyond.
ESSENCE: What computer science activities/courses were available to you as a kid?
Zendaya: I was lucky to go to a private school that provided computer science activities/courses. As a child, I could clearly see that the public school where my mom taught, did not have the same resources, not even close. That’s why I firmly believe all kids, no matter your area code, financial situation or skin color should have access to the same opportunities. How is a child supposed to know if computer science is their passion if they don’t know it even exists?
ESSENCE: Do you think Google’s contribution to computer science education will lead to more diversity in tech?
Justin: We know that 80 percent of grade school students who learn computer science learn it at school, but Black students are less likely than white students to have classes dedicated to CS at the schools they attend. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn CS, and by investing in more CS resources for underrepresented students and their teachers at the K-12 level, we hope students will develop the analytical thinking, creative problem solving, and digital skills that will equip them to successfully pursue career paths in technology.
ESSENCE: What efforts will Google make this year to help make computer science more accessible to students who may not normally have the opportunity to pursue it?
Justin: Google.org has invested over $40M in grants focused on providing opportunities for underrepresented students to use computer science as a gateway to experimentation and deeper learning. We are excited to continue supporting innovative partners like Roses in Concrete Community School who are working hard to make computer science culturally relevant and community responsive.
ESSENCE: Why is computer science education so important to you?
Zendaya: Education and the investment in young people is the only way we will all see a brighter future. They are the ones who will change the world. Also, I was very struck by what Jeff (Roses founder) said during the Google event. He said, “The purpose of education isn’t to escape poverty…it’s to end it.” and I think that really speaks for what we all believe the power of education can do.
Watch the mini-doc on Roses in Concrete above and find out more about Google.org and Zendaya’s efforts to help students at the school thrive here.