Volunteer Spotlight

August 18th, 2015

The vision of Nextech – to transform K-12 students from technology consumers to the next generation tech pioneers – is only realized through the support of passionate people willing to volunteer their time and talents.

This summer, Nextech’s nine high schools interns benefitted from the personal attention and experience of some amazing individuals. Corrina Cohen and Scott Williams are two examples of tech enthusiasts who are helping to make the Nextech vision a reality.  Keep reading to learn more about their recent volunteer efforts, in their own words.

Scott Williams

“The Nextech intern program definitely pulled me in. I started out volunteering just three hours one morning per week, then it turned into two to three mornings each week. There is such a big need for tech volunteers. I spent my time teaching the interns technical skills (photo editing and WordPress) and acting as a mentor.

I see computer science as a critical skill that will be more pervasive in everyday life. If young people don’t learn this they will be locked out of jobs and access to things around them. If they don’t know anything about computers their toaster will give them a 404 error; Toast not found. Nothing will make sense to them.

Students have to take advantage of the job opportunities in front of them. Nextech is working to close that gap between an educated workforce pipeline and the demand for tech skills. The U.S. has a complete edge on building software. All of the documentation of building the internet is written in English. The programming languages themselves are written in English. Outsourcing isn’t worth it.

But we’re not makers, we’re consumers. STEM in general is the way to reverse that. What I loved about Nextech was their focus on teaching students that their skills can go to a greater good. The interns built websites for Indiana nonprofits in need.

In computer science we can do a lot of good without a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong, there’s skill involved, but with the right skills – and the right culture – we can quickly accelerate programs and ideas into tangible results. I think it’s a wasted effort unless you’re also teaching young people to give back.”

Corrina Cohen

“I’ve volunteered before with young people, but this experience with the Nextech interns was something unexpected. I felt appreciated by the students for giving my time and acting as a mentor. Over the four weeks I spent with the students, I was a guest speaker and sat side-by-side with students to teach them how to use WordPress. Through this one-on-one time I was able to show the students how to set up Google analytics and SEO on the backend. 

What surprised me was how much work the students completed during the program. I’ve never seen students as interested and engaged as the Nextech interns. It was refreshing to see these young people take an interest in learning a new skill. But what was so amazing was seeing them realize how these new skills come together to help a worthy nonprofit.

It was through one-on-one conversations with the students that Nextech staff and volunteers explained how and why they were helping nonprofits. As a volunteer, I was able to explain on a deeper level to the students what they were doing and that they weren’t just making a website — they were making valuable contribution.

If we want employable people in five to 10 years, we need to work on the solution now. Students needs tech mentors and tech enthusiasts. We’re not going to be successful unless the technology community in Indiana helps out. I definitely want to volunteer again.”

If you’re a passionate about developing the next generation of tech talent, fill out this short volunteer profile to help us learn more about you.

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