High school students visit Comcast to learn from STEM experts
Comcast awards Heights Philadelphia $1M to build pipeline of diverse tech talent by welcoming students for special tour
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Today, a cohort of more than 35 students from George Washington High School visited the Comcast Technology Center, part of a pilot program that Heights Philadelphia (Heights) is supporting at their school to expand access to computer science and tech career pathways among Black and Latinx Philadelphia students. It also kick-started Comcast NBCUniversal’s $1M funding commitment for over three years as Founding Inveniam Equity Partner in Technology for Heights.
The 9th grade students also got the opportunity to visit Lift Labs at Comcast for presentations and receive free laptops— with some students crying and others in disbelief with the surprise.
“We know that the talent to make our city thrive exists right here, within our young people. And this gift from Comcast shows that the tech industry believes our students are the future of this city,” said Sara L. Woods, Esq., co-president of Heights Philadelphia. “Our partnership will prepare students with the skill sets, certifications, and degrees needed for internships and careers in computer science and technology. We are thrilled to have Comcast as a committed partner to help create important and impactful career opportunities for our students.”
AL DÍA covered the event and spoke with three freshmen: Alam Nuñez, Brian Enriquez, and Rose Julien, who were excited to hear from Comcast tech professionals about what a career in STEM entails.
Rose is interested in computer science—already learning about animation and coding and using her uncle as a reference in the field. She adds that students interested in STEM should invest in becoming a living testimony that they can succeed.
Enriquez shared he would like to pursue a career in network engineering. Nuñez cited the panelist as instrumental in providing “more knowledge of what it takes” to work in STEM and to “keep improving.”
Although Nuñez is not sure which career path to embark on, if he had to choose, it would be engineering since his sister is already in the field, and he would like to work alongside her.
According to a 2022 report by the Pew Research Center, “Hispanic Americans continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce…Hispanic workers make up 17% of total employment across all occupations, but just 8% of all STEM workers.”
In a statement to AL DÍA, Sean E. Vereen, Ed.D., co-president of Heights, said, “when we talk about the American dream, we talk about coming from places where you don’t have a whole lot, to places where you have enough. We know that if we invest in young people and create that dream into a reality. That’s part of what we are trying to do.”
He further adds that he would recommend Latinx students who have never considered pursuing a career in STEM to know the resources available to them.
“You may not know anybody doing this specific thing [STEM], but there’s a lot of information now that you can learn about it,” said Vereen. “Just be willing to put the work in.”
Comcast’s $1 million commitment
Comcast’s commitment to Heights is part of $4.3 million in grants awarded in 2022 to 30 nonprofit organizations across Philadelphia to support digital adoption and skills training for residents. These grants were distributed through Project UP, Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity through programs and community partnerships that connect people to the Internet, advance economic mobility, and open doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators.
“As a media and technology company that is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we understand the inequities and barriers students of color face when pursuing an education and career in an increasingly digital workforce,” said Dalia Wilson-Scott, EVP and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation and President, Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation. “Through this partnership with Heights, we will help to equip Philadelphia students with the digital skills and readiness needed to be successful and have a future of unlimited possibilities.”
In December, Philadelphia Future and Steppingstone merged, creating a new brand name, Heights Philadelphia —which will serve more than 3,000 students with an $11 million operating budget and an endowment of $30 million.
Currently, Heights is led by Sara L. Woods, Esq., former President of Futures, and Sean E. Vereen, Ed.D., former president of Steppingstone.
Heights is rooted in the bold vision that “all Philadelphia students graduate high school and achieve economic mobility through college and workforce success.” A deep and abiding commitment to breaking the cycle of generational poverty, especially among Black, Latino, and first-generation scholars.
The organization provides one-on-one advising, academic enrichment, internship opportunities, and financial support that break down systemic barriers and propel economic mobility.
Since Heights’ conception, many organizations like Comcast NBCUniversal, Hamilton Family Charitable Trust, Hirtle, Callaghan & Co.; Hess Foundation, Lenfest Foundation, Neubauer Family Foundation, and William Penn Foundation have made generous gifts and pledges to support its vision and mission.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations, focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org