Zoe Expands into the Tech World

August 17, 2023

Our Youth Workforce Development Program in Dallas collaborated with Compudopt, a nonprofit organization in Dallas whose mission is to provide technology access and education to under-resourced youth and their communities. In working with them, the youth served in a juvenile treatment center learned about various computer applications and completed independent projects that demonstrated that they knew how to work with the software. The following information is a composite story created by merging several youth experiences collected through employee observation and engagement surveys.

*Zoe is an Afro-Latina justice-involved youth who has experienced some educational gaps, making economic vulnerability a potential challenge for her. When Zoe first enrolled in our program, she dreamed of being a teacher, claiming she didn’t have a vested interest in tech. But after our staff connected her to Compudopt, we witnessed her open up to the field. 

During her first few tech workshops with Compudopt, Zoe would give up quickly when lessons were challenging. However, the more the staff covered various software programs and encouraged her to keep trying, the more passionate she became. In every session, Zoe learned new applications, jobs, or careers where her new skills could be applied, along with the hands-on experience of what it’s like to work in that field.

In the program, the youth learned how to use GIMP, a photo editing software, Blender, an animation program, and how to code using Python. After completing the training program, Compudopt gifted Zoe and the other youth in her program with a free laptop, charger, mouse, and two years of free tech support. When we asked the youth from Zoe’s cohort to describe how they felt during the program, they listed a wide range of emotions–inquisitiveness, confidence, and success– as well as tiredness, overwhelm, annoyance, and disappointment. Through the adversity, the youth grew in the tenacity and determination it takes to excel in tech and the general workforce. 

Compudopt instructors taught the youth that “99% of working in the tech industry is failing, but when you succeed, the feeling is unreal.” Even though Zoe struggled in the initial lessons, by the end of the program, Zoe was asking more questions about what it is like to work in the tech field and what she would need to do to become a “White Hat Hacker.” Zoe is so excited about her new skillset that she is planning to get a certification or a degree in cybersecurity instead of in education. No matter what field she chooses, we are happy to see her world expand and new passions awakened. 

When youth have broader access to safe employment, they are empowered to find work that suits their unique talents, making them less vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. Learn more about our economic empowerment programming at the link below!

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