Meeting the goal of bringing computer sciences to our students

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As a Rhode Island native, I’ve seen firsthand just how challenging it can be to provide schools with everything they need. But when it comes to equipping students for the future, it seems there is no hurdle too high for Governor Raimondo. As a Microsoft engineer who travels the country bringing educational opportunities to kids, I’ve seen the impact computer science classes have on the next generation.

Last March, thanks to the Governor’s leadership, Rhode Island became the first state committed to providing all young people the opportunity to learn critical thinking, logic and coding skills by offering computer science opportunities in every public school. I joined Governor Raimondo to unveil the Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) initiative in partnership with TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools), a Microsoft Philanthropies program; Code.org; Project Lead the Way; University of Rhode Island; and Brown University’s Bootstrap program; as well as the support of the Rhode Island Teacher’s Union and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE).

Specifically, the TEALS program is dedicated to pairing local volunteer computer science experts with high school teachers to help create a sustainable and rigorous computer science program at that school. By being part of the CS4RI initiative, TEALS is a key component of bringing computer science classes to every school in the state by December of 2017, making Rhode Island the first state to standardize the offering and paving the way toward a more vibrant local economy.

As a TEALS volunteer myself, now in my fifth year, I’m incredibly proud of the many students I’ve seen graduate with these new skills and go on to major in Computer Science at places such as Stanford, University of Washington, and Brown. Working with teachers throughout the year and passing the torch so that they can teach computer science to every new student that walks through their door is one of the proudest moments of my career.

Our goal is not for everyone to become a computer scientist or a software engineer, but to develop a set of skills that will be essential to functioning in the 21st century workplace. When I teach my introduction to computer science course, I get to show students how cool computer science can be, while equipping them with a set of skills. Whether my students go into manufacturing, business, finance, fashion or biotech, computer science will play an enormous role in the jobs of the future. Just as importantly, not having these skills has the potential to hold them back as they compete in an increasingly tough job market.

When I graduated from Toll Gate in Warwick in 1983, I took the first programming course offered my senior year. Since then, there has been some progress in high schools across the state, but there is still a ways to go. That's why I’m proud to see, less than a year into the CS4RI initiative, nearly half of Rhode Island’s public schools have already met the goal to offer computer science courses to students. If I were giving Rhode Island a progress report, Governor Raimondo’s initiative would receive an A. Kip Fern grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island and attended Toll Gate High School. Kip graduated from MIT with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. While at Microsoft, Kip was the very first program manager on the Microsoft Live

@EDU program (now known as Office 365 Education), and he has also been a TEALS volunteer since 2012 teaching the Intro to CS course. He discovered his passion for computer science when as a senior at Toll Gate in 1982-83, Kip took the very first programming course was offered and wrote his first program. In his role as Sr. Operations PM at Microsoft TEALS, he is responsible for ensuring all operational aspects of the TEALS program runs smoothly.

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