The following is partly taken from a letter I sent to Mr. Marc Benioff last week. I have had some Salesforce #Ohana ask me to tell my story around Dreamforce 2016 and what has been happening with my Public School Challenge this year. I hope to inspire others to join me as I continue to help improve the education and lives of youth in my area. Thanks for all your support!
My name is Stuart Edeal. I live and work in St Paul, Minnesota, and I have been working with the Salesforce platform for many years.
I attended the Dreamforce 2016 Keynote and listened to will.i.am speak about how Equality begins at school for America’s youth. Later that week, at the Marc Benioff Q&A Session, I was able to thank Marc for his work with adopting San Francisco schools and asked how I can also help the schools in my local community.
Marc’s answer was direct and relevant. He asked me the name of my local school, and the name of the principal of that school. He challenged me to meet the principal and to ask him/her about the needs of that school.
Results after Dreamforce
In October, Amy Weaver interviewed me in the Keynote at a special post-Dreamforce Salesforce Event in Minneapolis. During this conversation, I retold the question I posed to Mr Benioff, as well as his response. Not only did that interview result in several subsequent conversations with members of the Salesforce community, but I also met many new people passionate about STEM education.
Through local Salesforce Community Connections, I was invited to participate in Junior Achievement’s Career Day event at Humboldt High School. Humboldt is a St. Paul Public High School, located near my home. At this event, I met with students from grades 9–12 and spoke with them one-on-one about their career questions and concerns. That day, I also met with Humboldt Staff and Teachers about their STEM education plans.
Humboldt High School and the Academy of IT
I met the Principal of Humboldt High School, Michael Sodomka, and discussed his vision for the school. Humboldt High School is aggressively trying to build opportunities for the diverse mix of students:
- The student enrollment is 1,150
- Male/Female attendance is a 50% split
- Total minority enrollment is at 94%
- Economically Disadvantaged enrollment is at 93%
- Advanced Placement participation rate is 42%
One of the opportunities that Humboldt offers is the Academy of Information Technology (AoIT). The AoIT is a technology learning community inside of Humboldt that offers an opportunity to study technology while preparing for college and careers in the IT industry. The AoIT was initially funded via a Youth Career Connect grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama Administration, which will expire in the next year.
The AoIT is made up of three practices:
– Common courses for a small group of students
– College prep curriculum with a career focus, and
– Partnerships with employers, communities and institutions of higher learning.
AoIT cohorts include the following:
- 9th grade – Basics of IT & Computing
- 10th grade – Web Design
- 11th grade – Computer Hardware
- 12th grade – Advanced Networking
I also got a chance to meet with the facilitators and teachers in the AoIT, and was amazed at their plans and the skills they were teaching these young students.
In March 2017, I was asked to serve on the AoIT Advisory Council, and in April I was appointed to the School District’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) Advisory Board. St. Paul Schools are working to increase the opportunities of their students in many career areas, including Technology, Robotics, Medical, Agriculture, Construction and many more areas. One of the major focuses of the St Paul CTE is Apprenticeships. They are equipping young students with not only the education they need to get careers but the opportunities through that they need to put that education into action.
This morning (July 27, 2017) I got to meet with Dr Joe Gothard, who is the new superintendent of the entire St Paul school district. We spoke about community involvement in schools, and I had a chance to tell him about the work going on so far. He was very receptive to more partnerships with the community to create opportunities for the St Paul students.
St Paul Connections
There are other opportunities for St Paul students, such as the Silicon North Stars. The mission of Silicon North Stars is to inspire and educate young Minnesotans to become future leaders in technology. The Silicon North Stars are preparing for a one-week tech camp held Silicon Valley. During the week, the students meet with leaders from top tech companies, startups, and venture capital funds. Past visits have included Facebook, YouTube, Google, Andreessen Horowitz, Lyft, Indiegogo, Galvanize SF, Intuit, Stanford University, Singularity University, TaskRabbit, and the Target Innovation Center.
My hope is that programs like this continue to grow – perhaps a visit to Salesforce would be a future stop for these students?
The biggest needs for the Humboldt and the AoIT program are around four different areas:
- Funding for Staffing and Equipment (as the funding from the Dept. of Labor Grant ends, we will be looking for new sources of funding to continue this program)
- Programming Opportunities (Internships, Job Shadowing, Tours, etc)
- Mentoring and Volunteers in the classrooms
- Collaboration with other Education Leaders across the country. (The local leaders here are eager to speak with San Francisco school leaders about the work they have already done with their Salesforce partnership.)
I am committing my time to the St Paul School district this year. I will be serving on the Career and Technical Education board, and I will be actively volunteering in the AoIT technology classes, and helping the staff with programming and fundraising.
Thank you for your time and encouraging me to get involved with my local education system. I have benefited greatly from this challenge, and I hope that the youth of St Paul, MN will also benefit from our partnership.