Tag Archives: Our Boys Matter

Our Alumni are off to College!

IMG_2680-1

All Star Code recently celebrated the accomplishments of our graduating seniors with a college send-off event. During the evening, we learned that more than 60% of the students will be attending top 50 universities in the United States. Graduates will be attending Columbia University, Duke University, Harvey Mudd College, Howard College, Stanford University and NYU just to name a few. Additionally, our graduating seniors have received over $500,000 in scholarships and financial aid.

The evening, hosted at Christina Lewis Halpern’s residence, was filled with excitement and gratitude. All Star Code is extremely proud and eager to support our young entrepreneurs who are already pioneering into this new world.100% of our alumni who are graduating seniors will be attending college.

This year, ASC alumni will be attending the following colleges all around the country and continuing their journeys in becoming the next generation of tech leaders:

Boston College

Bucknell University

Columbia University (4)

Cornell University

Denison University

Duke University

Hampton College

Harvey Mudd College (2)

Howard University

Ithaca College (2)

LaGuardia Community College

Lawrence University

Lehigh University

Long Island University

Marist College

New York University

Queens College

Rochester Institute of Technology

Stanford University

The University at Albany, SUNY (2)

The University at Albany, SUNY (Honors College)

The University of Maryland, College Park

University of Virginia

Williams College

Yale University

The Story of the Man Who Was the Most Successful African-American Entrepreneur, and Why It Matters Today

 

A version of this essay was given as a talk at the Rethink Education Summit on February 24th, 2016, at Blue Hill Stone Barns, Tarrytown, NY.

BS  BS bs-ae-lewis-memoir-p2

 I am the daughter of an icon. Reginald F. Lewis, the first African-American to build a billion-dollar business. He was the first person of color to break into the elite boys’ club of Wall Street boardrooms.

In 1987 he engillion-dollar offshore leveraged buyout to purchase TLC Beatrice International, a sprawling global conglomerate of food companies and brands ranging from an ice cream company in Spain, La Menorquina, a potato chip company in Ireland, Tayto, supermarkets in France, Franprix and Leaderprice, and others. His company was the largest African American-owned business by far, according to Black Enterprise magazine-fourteen times largest by revenues than its closest competitor, Johnson Publishing Company.

It’s hard to convey how key a figure he was and is in the black community. He was the single largest donor to Jesse Jackson both early in his career and in Jesse’s historic campaign for the Presidency. He was perhaps the 1st African-American listed on the Forbes 400, a generous philanthropist, donating millions to Howard University and Harvard Law School. His life arc was and is a shining example for people of color of what had work can achieve, proof that there is hope.

We need hope. And we also need to keep fighting. Schools are more segregated today than they were thirty years ago. African-Americans are underrepresented in Congress, among professional workers, among Oscar nominees. The wealth gap between blacks and whites is frighteningly wide: $11,000 for a black household and nearly $142,000 for a white household. The gap among Latinos is nearly as wide.

Wow. Right? I mean, wow.

My father died when I was 12, in 1993. Losing a parent so young is always hard. The full extent of my loss and grief would only become clear to me as an adult. But what his death did is it sent me searching for a sense of the man that he was. He had become a towering, even godlike figure to my child mind. Who was he really as a person and what made him so special? His life is one of the greatest rags to riches stories in America. But what lies beneath? What was the back-story?

My father was born in 1942 in segregated Baltimore. His mother was 17 years old. He grew up in his grandparents’ house, on an unpaved alley in East Baltimore. Many homes had outhouses in their backyards. He attended segregated schools through college. He played in a segregated little league. He had to sit in the balcony at movie theaters (not that they went to the movies). At his Catholic elementary school, one of the nuns told him he should become a carpenter, to stop dreaming of becoming a lawyer.

These beginnings have some of the tropes of black family dysfunction, and all the force of the American Dream mythology of the self-made man, but don’t be fooled: my great-grandparents had 8 children who doted on my father as their new youngest sibling, and my great-grandfather, Sam, worked as a waiter at fancy hotels and country clubs. The neighborhood was rough. The times were unjust. But, my father had a family and a community. His mother re-married, giving my father five siblings.

Outside of family, he found other angels who saw his potential and helped him rise to help him rise. A few years ago, I began researching for a memoir I wanted to write called Lonely at the Top—a personal journey to understand the legacy I had inherited. As part of this research I met Frank Sander, an 85-year-old retired Harvard Law School professor, also a Holocaust survivor who clerked on the Supreme Court when they decided Brown v Board.   He was the driving force behind the creation of a summer program to try to diversify Harvard.  It was through this program that my father was able to gain admittance in 1965 to the law school, giving him the credentials he needed to access the private sector.

My father had always told me that his time at Harvard Law School opened the world to him. He had always wanted to be a lawyer. It was not only the first white school he had attended, it also exposed him to an elite network, educated him, and gave him a credential, a stamp that members of society in 1968 took seriously. Graduating from there is how HE could be taken seriously.

After graduating from law school he became a first year associate at a white-shoe law firm in New York and from there he began his climb into Wall Street’s inner circle. His world once all black, was now all white.

My father was at the vanguard of this nationwide struggle to integrate the American private sector. History teaches us about the fight to integrate schools and the military.  But, there’s an untold history that is still going on and that is the integration of corporate America. And my father, before he died, believed that the next phase of the civil rights movement was economic. So did Martin Luther King, Jr. It was, after all, called a March on Washington for JOBS and Freedom.

And here was the idea.

I began to wonder, is there some new frontier? Is there some new part of the economy that has not yet integrated? Is there an area where a talented young man like my father would not be able to succeed because it was still closed? The answer came immediately: Tech. Tech today is like Wall Street in the 1960s: an insider-y, clubby world built through an informal network of people we know, people who have the right credentials. Jobs aren’t advertised and the people who drive the industry don’t consider themselves exclusionary, but rather holders of a proud, respected tradition.

And so, I realized there are youth out there now who are not being tapped. There are youth out there who are so unbelievably talented but startup founders won’t hire them, venture capitalists won’t invest in them, because they don’t have the right credentials.

And, you know, I’m a doer. My father didn’t raise me to sit on the sidelines. To paraphrase the bible, those to whom much is given, much is expected. Four years ago, I was a professional journalist, working entirely in the realm of ideas–a professional observer. Yet, this problem–the lack of diversity in tech–felt so urgent to me. But I didn’t do anything about it; I just watched. And saw programs starting for girls, but none for boys. And as the months passed I thought, well, maybe I should work on this. Maybe if I don’t do it, no one else will. Or at least, not as well.

So we’ve built a program that would find and help young men like my father.

The fight had to be passed on. Hope has to be met with an effort to create the conditions to fulfill that hope. The arc of the moral universe doesn’t bend toward justice without people trying to guide its curve. My great-grandparents tried to bend it just a little bit, for my grandmother, and she in turn for my father, and he for everyone he could. Professor Sander at Harvard bent it for him and for other young black students. What we’ve built at All Star Code bends it. And we believe that the young men we’ve met are well on their way to realizing that hope, and creating more. That they are the next step in the arc.

The core tenet of our program, All Star Code, is that we aren’t just teaching computer science. We are setting students up with the skills, networks, and system know-how they need to be successful in the tech industry and overall workforce. Throughout our programming, All Star Code students improve soft skills, develop personal narratives, and learn the principles of entrepreneurship. All Star Code is a powerful intervention that opens our students’ minds to what is possible.

Speaking of students… check out Djassi’s recent speech from the ReThink Education Summit.

Christina Lewis Halpern, Founder and Executive Director of All Star Code, delivered the above speech to a group of tech entrepreneurs at the ReThink Education Summit on February 24th, 2016.

 

 

All Star Code at SXSW

2016-sxsw-logo

On March 11, All Star Code’s Founder and Executive Director, Christina Lewis Halpern will be a key speaker and panel moderator at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The session is entitled Cracking the Codes: Why Black & Latino Boys Matter.

Christina will be accompanied by Marisa Renee Lee, Managing Director of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) and Marcus Mitchell, Senior Engineer Director at Google. She will be part of a session, which answers the questions:

    Why are some boys falling behind in the 21st century economy?
    What are the consequences of a diversity debt within a startup?
    And how are boys’ needs different from those of girls?

Though the exciting interactive panel, Christina, Marisa and Marcus will be providing insight into the projected deficit of highly skilled workers in the US. By 2020,123 million highly skilled jobs will be available with only 50 million workers with the skills to fill them!

Boys of color in the US will soon be roughly 25% of those entering the workforce. The panelists will discuss how investing in these boys across the US, is an overlooked opportunity and can affect a business’ bottom line.

Christina will take the audience through the exciting movement of closing the opportunity gap for Black and Latino boys across the country with a unique focus on tech sector. All Star Code is very excited for this upcoming event and I hope to see you there!

To find out more about All Star Code’s session, visit SXSW Interactive.

Going to be at SXSW? Contact amanda@allstarcode.org to let us know!

My Incredible Ride With All Star Code

As many of you know, these are my final days as Operations & Program Coordinator for All Star Code. Admittedly, it is bittersweet. On the one hand, I am excited for a new opportunity that lies ahead. And on the other, I’ll be leaving behind an organization whose mission is very close to me.
 
Prior to ASC, C++ was just an awkward letter grade for me between a C+ and a B-. Aside from hipping me to the fact that C++ was a powerful programming language, my time at ASC proved incredibly encouraging. ASC showed me that despite the countless news broadcasts that suggest otherwise, there are a world of folks who believe that Our Boys Matter. These supporters are also willing to put their money, time and efforts behind ASC to prove this fact.
 
That alone was enough to get me out of bed and into the office every morning.
 
I’ve met hundreds of students in the past year while raising awareness about All Star Code. This past July, my focus narrowed down to a select 20 who were accepted to our inaugural Summer Intensive.
 
The ASC team is, by and large, a well-prepared bunch. But nothing could have prepared us for the amount of vigor and life the inaugural Summer Intensive class brought to All Star Code. These young men, known as ASC 1, embody what All Star Code is all about: A deep passion for computer science, grit, wellness and FUN. I thank ASC1 for making our first Summer Intensive a blast and for continuing to stay connected with us.
 
ASC1 – Don’t tell the team this, but I have the most fun job of them all. I’m not even sure they’d disagree. I not only get to interface with great young minds like your own, but I get to be around the incredible individuals who make up the ASC team. These are people who couldn’t be more different, yet are joined by a belief that our young men of color deserve just as much access to the tech industry as anyone else.
 
If you are a parent or educator thinking about connecting with All Star Code, rest assured that your child or student are in the best of hands.
 
I couldn’t be more grateful to all who have made ASC what it is today. In such a short time, we’ve been able to garner a great amount of support. I know it will only continue.
 
Thank you for an incredible ride.
 
David
 

Slider 1