On January 1, 2020, Danny Rojas assumed the role of Executive Director of All Star Code. The move comes as part of a new leadership strategy that sees founder Christina Lewis assume the role of President, where she will lead fundraising efforts, as well as continue to provide strategic advice and weigh in on long-term vision.
Since joining All Star Code in May 2018 as VP of Program, Danny has served an invaluable member of All Star Code’s leadership. In Fall 2018, he became Executive Vice President and was able to further stabilize and strengthen the organization’s operations and infrastructure, as well as lead the growth of our 2019 Summer Intensive class by 25%.
Here Danny discusses the fascinating path that led him to All Star Code.
How did you first hear about All Star Code?
At the time I was with General Assembly, which provides training tech and coding training for adults, working as an account director. One afternoon I heard a lot of laughter in the main events space. It was intriguing, so I went to check it out and found about 20 high school kids – all young men of color – in this great discussion about coding, and careers, and celebrating failure. I thought, “This is amazing! Where did these kids come from?”
Turns out the students were there as part of an All Star Code Summer Intensive site visit. And that’s how I met Christina, just standing in the hallway outside of that event space. And in those few minutes I found someone who shared my passion for building diversity in tech. And I was hooked!
What drives your passion around diversifying the tech talent pipeline?
I’ve personally lived it. As a Latino professional, consultant, engineer, and STEM student, I was always aware that there were fewer of “me” in the spaces that I operated in. I have always felt a responsibility to represent my community and serve as a voice for inclusion and equity.
Representation in tech is an incredibly complex problem, it has a lot of different facets. Why do you think it has persisted in the tech industry?
Access and exposure.
Even understanding that I could have a career in tech was a big barrier. Once you do recognize that, can you gain access to quality education? When I think about full-time immersive courses, it’s a $15,000–17,000 investment.
These are both significant barriers for communities of color.
What made you make the jump from General Assembly, which provides adult education, to All Star Code and its focus on youth?
A few big things. One was the singular focus on boys and young men of color. I’m very much aware of the inspiring work of Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code — tackling and elevating the conversation around gender equity in tech continues to be so important for all. What hasn’t been as visible has been the work for boys and young men of color. Picking that lane was something that really attracted me to All Star Code.
I also sit on the board of trustees of my national fraternity, Phi Iota Alpha, which is a Latino fraternity. My work with All Star Code, building much needed community and networks for our students and Scholars, is very much analogous to my responsibility in educating younger generations of my own Latino fraternity brothers. ASC’s use of the word “brotherhood” is very impactful, and explicit.
The third thing I would say attracted me is the programmatic model of actually having our Summer Intensives take place on site at major companies like Google, Facebook, and Goldman Sachs, giving our young men exposure not only to those settings, but to role models who are integral to those companies. That, to me, is incredibly powerful: to put you out of your element, and to see the skyline and think, “I really belong here!”
All Star Code recently implemented its new five-year strategic plan. What does that include and where will it take All Star Code?
Our strategic plan is called the 5/5/5 Plan and it will allow us to grow our proven model of tech skills and leadership training for young men of color to a national scale, drive a 400% increase in young black and brown high-school boys in tech programs, and help significantly improve diversity in the tech industry within the next decade.
It’s an ambitious plan, but one that we believe is absolutely attainable by 2024. Our plan is to form five partnerships with national youth and education organizations, focusing on five of America’s tech hubs, to teach and train 5,000 young men of color annually.
Our 5,000 young men will be ready and prepared to become leaders in America’s most important industry and provide a much needed corrective to the thinking of today’s typical coder, and an inspiration to black and brown boys dreaming of a future in tech.
What advice to you find you most often share with All Star Code Scholars?
First and foremost, that you are enough. A lot of our All Stars are entering environments that they’ve never been in, whether that’s college, first internships, or even local hackathons, and sometimes we get this imposter syndrome where we feel like we’re not adequate. Take advantage of your growth mindset don’t get discouraged! Remember that your All Star Code Scholar network – your Brotherhood – is here for you. We care about you and we know you will be successful however you define it.
All Star Code Scholar Jerome McCree is a Senior at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and is preparing to enter college next fall and one day run several of his own businesses. In November 2019, he fellow All Star Code Scholar Donald Poindexter won the Best of Show prize at the SRDN Code Day for high school and college students in Pittsburgh.
[During the All Star Code Summer Intensive] I was able to meet some of the most fantastic people, including an African American venture capitalist. Hearing these stories from other people that look like you really inspires you to do something great.
How did you learn about All Star Code?
Two years ago, my mom saw a Facebook ad for All Star Code. I applied and got in. She and I had already
been talking about an idea for a website for local businesses and I was able to learn the technical skills
for me to able to build our vision.
What is your favorite thing about coding?
The idea of working on something like a sandbox project and then being able to turn that into a billion
dollar company. This happens so many times with like companies like Stripe, Facebook, Airbnb, so many
different companies. That’s the most exciting thing. Also being able to help people and influence people
through whatever projects you’re working on.
Is there anything you learned in the Summer Intensive that really surprised you?
What true innovation is. True innovation is vertical innovation, not horizontal innovation.
What that means is horizontal innovation is basically taking what a company is already doing and just trying to make a small change. No company, no big company or big billion dollar companies are built like that.
The main thing is vertical innovation, which is doing something that’s totally brand new. And then being ten times better than anything else is in the market. This is the same thing that happened with Amazon back in the early nineties. They came up with a new type of technology using the internet and were able to sell books literally five to 10 times better than any other retailers. It’s the same thing with Airbnb.
What other lessons from the Summer Intensive have really stuck with you?
To dare greatly. If you’re trying to become an entrepreneur or anything else, that is something you really
need to understand. Being able to come up with new ideas and take risks. And celebrate failure! Maybe
what you’re trying to build may fail but at you even tried to do something. That’s really important!
How has All Star Code changed you?
I was able to meet some of the most fantastic people, including an African American venture capitalist.
He came to see us at Carnegie Mellon, where we met each day, to talk about his experiences. He built
two companies, went to Amazon and then went to Google. Hearing these stories from other people that
look like you really inspires you to do something great.
What advice would you give to someone your age who is interested in entrepreneurship?
My advice would be just go and look and learn about different types of founders and different types of
companies and how they get started. When you start to learn about their stories, you realize they may
not be so different. I think that’s really powerful. Really inspirational. And the Summer Intensive is a
great place to start doing that.
All Star Code Scholar Kwaku Amofah-Boafo is a senior at Frederick Douglass Academy 1 High School in Harlem. He participated in All Star Code’s 2018 Summer Intensive and went on to serve as a Teaching Fellow for the 2019 program. He is currently preparing to major in Computer Science in college next year.
Through All Star Code I have really become more assertive in letting my voice be heard, whether it’s in a networking, interviewing, or regular social situations.
How did you learn about and become involved with All Star Code?
I learned about All Star Code through a S.T.E.M counselor in my school.
What is your favorite thing about coding?
Turning my ideas into reality and how that can impact people. I think the fact that I can think up an idea, create a wire frame, and bring it to life is amazing! Most of the apps that I use every day started as an idea and with coding I am able to do the same thing.
What are some of the main take-aways from your All Star Code Summer Intensive experience?
That “core skills” are just as important as technical skills. You can be the best coder in the world but if you can’t give a firm handshake, interview well, or make deep connections with people you won’t get as far as you think. Technical skills are just one part of the equation to success.
Also, that people fail many times before they actually succeed. I previously thought that successful people were dealt a lucky hand in one shot and while sometimes that is the case, most times it is not. Most successful people have failed multiple times yet have been resilient resulting in their success.
How has All Star Code changed your life?
I am usually of a more introverted, quiet kid, but through All Star Code I have really become someone is more aggressive in letting my voice be heard whether it’s in a networking, interviewing, or regular social situations.
What advice would you give to someone your age who is interested in learning more about tech and entrepreneurship?
The advice I would give to someone my age is to see every problem as an opportunity. The most successful apps and businesses were created by someone who saw a problem and instead of just pushing it aside, found a solution and monetized that solution. Lastly, “Just Do It!” The wealthiest people in business and best people in the tech industry didn’t get there by sitting around, but by jumping straight into what they wanted to accomplish. So start with applying to the Summer Intensive!
All Star Code Scholar De Andre King of Queens, New York, participated in the 2015 Summer Intensive in New York City. Today, as a Senior at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, majoring in Computer Engineering.
“If it wasn’t for All Star Code, I wouldn’t have discovered the passion I have for Software Engineering and I probably wouldn’t be the young man I am today.”
What brought you to All Star Code?
I learned about All Star Code when it first launched in 2014 through the career center at my high school. I fell in love with the mission statement: “Closing the opportunity gap between young men of color and the tech industry by giving them the skills, networks, and system know-how they need to become the next generation of tech leaders.” I truly felt that it was a program that would invest in my future and my passion for tech.
I applied for the program that first year, but was not selected. But I applied the following year and was accepted into the program. I’m glad I didn’t give up!
Have you stayed involved or benefited since that initial summer training?
Absolutely! I’ve been fortunate to become an AT&T Scholar within the program, which provided the opportunity to opportunity for me to network with industry professionals, and even got to appear in a PBS NewsHour segment about All Star Code. I’ve also worked with new students, serving both as a Teaching Fellow and then a Teaching Assistant with the Summer Intensive Program. I’ve also volunteered at fundraisers. I love All Star Code!
What have been the main take-aways from your All Star Code Summer Intensive experience?
Honestly, the ability to celebrate failure. As a Junior in high school preparing for college and beyond, having those really thoughtful and passionate conversations around failure that spread into other topics like academics, masculinity, personal and professional wellness, etc. really meant everything to me.
I was also surprised to learn about the significant pushes some major companies, especially within their technology divisions, were making to diversify their teams. I felt that there was an awakening, to a certain degree, about how diversifying the workplace can benefit the overall success of the company and inherently have a greater impact on the world. Some of those benefits consisted of increased creativity and ingenuity, having a variety of perspectives, and overall improved performance.
What difference has All Star Code made in your life?
All Star Code has exposed me to so much and enlightened me from such a young age. It has helped shape and mold my confidence around everything I put my mind to. If it wasn’t for All Star Code, I wouldn’t have received my Posse Foundation Scholarship [which provides full tuition to partner colleges for individuals with extraordinary leadership potential]. I truly believe it was me showing my interviewers the projects that I built during my 2015 Summer Intensive Program that demonstrated the love I have for programming and helped differentiate me from other candidates.
What advice would you give to someone your age who is interested in learning more about tech and entrepreneurship?
I would say that even if you are unsure of what exactly you want to do related to tech or entrepreneurship, there is a huge benefit to being around others like you that are equally curious and eager to just learn more. I would say apply to All Star Code – go for it!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2019
ALL STAR CODE ANNOUNCES NEW LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE
AS PART OF FIVE-YEAR STRATEGIC GROWTH PLAN
Founder Christina Lewis named President and Danny Rojas named Executive Director
NEW YORK, NY – All Star Code, the leading nonprofit organization creating economic opportunity for young men of color by helping them develop the tools needed to succeed in a technological world, today announced that founder Christina Lewis has been named President and Danny Rojas has been named Executive Director of the organization, effective January 1, 2020. Both Rojas and Lewis will report directly to the All Star Code Board of Directors.
This new leadership structure reflects a long-planned strategy to support the next stage of All Star Code’s nationwide expansion. The new five-year strategic growth plan aims to serve 5,000 young men annually by 2024, nearly 10 times its current capacity.
In her new role as President of All Star Code, Lewis will lead fundraising activities while continuing to play a key role in executing the organization’s long-term vision and providing strategic counsel.
“Since 2013, it has been an enormous privilege to serve as All Star Code’s chief executive and, honestly, a blessing,” said Lewis. “The personal learnings from and jaw-dropping impact of this ‘tech prep’ program for boys of color are two treasured gifts that keep on giving. As we enter this exciting new stage, I look forward to working with Danny in making our programs available to young men of color around the country and expanding this important movement.”
As Executive Director, Rojas, who originally joined All Star Code in 2018 as Vice President of Programs and has most recently served as Executive Vice President, will oversee day-to-day operations and execution of the growth strategy.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as Executive Director for All Star Code,” said Rojas. “When I joined the team in May of 2018 and walked into our Summer Intensive classrooms, hosted at top technology companies, it affirmed to me how important this work is. As an engineer, executive, and parent of a future All Star, the mission resonates personally and I am committed to realizing our vision and potential – in our students, our communities, and our nation. I look forward to working with Christina to continue growing the organization to expand our national footprint and meet, and exceed, our goal of serving 5,000 young men of color annually by 2024.”
“Since first launching in 2013, All Star Code has refined and enhanced its approach to building opportunities for young men of color to enter and excel in the tech sector, supporting the continued calls for more diversity in that industry,” said Dr. David Orr, All Star Code Board Chair and Chaplain, Metropolitan Jewish Health System. “This new leadership structure will best position All Star Code for substantial and sustainable growth as we continue to build a strong talent pipeline that will significantly contribute to changing the face of tech within the next decade.”
Lewis founded All Star Code in 2013 providing 10 driven young men with the tools, resources, and confidence needed to succeed in the tech-first world. Since then, more than 600 more young men of color in New York City and Pittsburgh have completed All Star Code’s flagship Summer Intensive program, with many students going on to major in computer science in top schools around the country, intern with leading tech companies, and launch their own startups.
# # #
Charles Phillips and Ryan Williams to support ASC’s mission by participating in engagements, providing counsel and amplifying the organization’s initiatives nationally
New York, NY – October 23, 2019 – All Star Code (ASC), a leading nonprofit organization creating economic opportunity for boys and young men of color (BYMOC) by helping them develop the tools they need to succeed in a technological world, has added two renowned business leaders to its Ambassador program: Charles Phillips, Chairman of the Board of Infor – the world’s third largest business software applications company – and Ryan Williams, founder and CEO of Cadre – the digital real estate investing platform.
The Ambassador program, launched in March 2019, connects business leaders with All Star Code’s more than 600 students and alumni to bolster All Star Code’s mission to create economic opportunity for BYMOC by helping them develop the skills and mindset they need to become entrepreneurs.
“We are so thrilled to welcome Ryan Williams and Charles Phillips as our newest Ambassadors” says Christina Lewis, Founder and CEO of All Star Code. “These illustrious, pioneering leaders embody hard work, bringing others up with you, and daring greatly— all values we teach at All Star Code. Their support, along with that of our other Ambassadors, all nationally-recognized leaders in the business community, will be critical to us achieving our goals.”
All Star Code partners closely with its ten Ambassadors – including Ken Chenault (Chairman and Managing Director at General Catalyst partners, former CEO of American Express), Van Jones (Political Contributor at CNN) and Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation) – to bring widespread awareness to the underrepresentation of Black and Latino men in the technology sector. Ambassadors support All Star Code by speaking at ASC’s programs and events, hosting discussions and fundraising engagements, and providing strategic counsel to the organization.
“I know from personal experience how important it is to create windows of access and opportunity for young people, especially those who have often been forgotten. Tomorrow’s economy will continue to evolve, and require different skills than today’s,” said Williams. “The question we must ask, and that All Star Code is working hard to answer, is how we level the playing field so that in the midst of growth in the technology economy we lift up young people from underserved communities.”
More Information on the new All Star Code Ambassadors:
- Charles Phillips is a business executive in the technology industry who served as the CEO of Infor since early 2010 and is now Chairman of the Board. Infor is the world’s third largest provider of enterprise applications and services. In his first three years at Infor, Phillips significantly grew the company through multiple strategic acquisitions, the creation of an in-house design agency, and updates to the software user interface and visual appeal. Prior to joining Infor, Phillips served as co-president and director of Oracle Corporation and was a managing director in the technology group at Morgan Stanley. Phillips also serves on the board of directors at Viacom.
- Ryan Williams is an entrepreneur best known as the founder and CEO of Cadre, a New York-based real estate technology company. Cadre provides individuals and institutions direct access to large commercial real-estate properties, and has been described as a service that “makes the real estate market more like the stock market.” In 2015, Williams founded Cadre at age 26 after receiving investments from Thrive Capital and General Catalyst. Williams has appeared on the cover of Forbes’ “FinTech50” issue, was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list and is listed as one of Goldman Sachs’ “Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs.” Williams received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard University.
About All Star Code
All Star Code, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013, empowers young men with the skills, networks, and mindsets they need to create new futures through technology. Our goal is to close the tech entrepreneurship gap in the United States by developing a pipeline of diverse 21st century leaders. The Summer Intensive, our free six-week flagship program in New York, NY and Pittsburgh, PA, exposes our talented students to the technology industry via an innovative curriculum that mixes specific skills, networks, mindsets, and cultural understanding.
The Holiday’s have graciously rented out the entire venue and we’ll be taking over all three floors at The VNYL to kick-off their annual celebration of the holiday season. There will be a one-hour open bar and hors d’oeuvres. To RSVP, learn more, and check out photos from previous years, please visit the Holiday Party website.
It will be a night of fun, revelry and fundraising!
All proceeds benefit All Star Code and support our mission of developing a new generation of boys and young men of color with an entrepreneurial mindset who have the tools they need to succeed in a technological world.
We’ve moved our blog to Medium! Please check out all of the latest news there.
We live in interesting times. Throughout our nation and the globe, individuals are coming together demanding change, opportunity, and access in order to find sustainable, rewarding careers in the 21st century.
All Star Code is meeting that need by fostering the entrepreneurial talents of one of our most vulnerable and overlooked populations, Black and Latino boys. ASC empowers young men with the skills, networks, and mindsets they need to create new futures through technology. We work towards building a world where every young man has the confidence to dare greatly, the safety to celebrate failure, and the freedom to tell his story.
After three years of operation, ASC students have matriculated at top colleges across the nation, from NYU to Hampton to Stanford; founded learn-to-code organizations, and launched their own web development businesses. 100% of our college-aged alums go to college and two-thirds to top universities.
I am proud to share that today All Star Code has committed to continuing to double the size of our Summer Intensive each year. We have announced a target to deliver coding, technology, and entrepreneurship skills through our Summer Intensive to 1,000 students by 2020, as part of the White House’s “Computer Science for All” initiative. (See the Fact Sheet.)
This growth would not be possible without the leadership of the many funders, educators, social entrepreneurs and policymakers who care about empowering our youth with the skills, networks and mindsets needed to thrive in the innovation economy. Thank you all of the individuals, companies, and other funders for your sustaining support.
Over the coming months, we are speaking with partners to discuss this growth. Please take a moment to think about an individual, company, organization or city that is invested empowering our youth and send them our way.
Second, we will be hiring for a number of full-time positions. Please check our website and follow us on Twitter to see the new positions as they become available. All inquiries can be sent to email@example.com.
As you may know, we have called off our Executive Director search and I feel so privileged and excited to continue to lead the organization into the next chapter.
All Star Code Pledges to Deliver Technology & Entrepreneurship Training to 1,000 Students by 2020 as Part of the White House’s “Computer Science for All” Initiative
New York, NY – August 17, 2016 – All Star Code (ASC), a non-profit organization that prepares diverse young men with skills to obtain careers in technology, will announce its commitment to deliver training to 1,000 students by 2020 in coding, technology and career-focused skills as part of the Obama Administration’s “Computer Science for All” initiative.
Computer Science for All, designed to empower kindergarten- through high school-aged students with the resources to learn the computational thinking skills needed to become leaders in the digital economy, is closely aligned with All Star Code’s mission to prepare young men of color for fulltime employment in the technology industry by providing mentorship, industry exposure, and intensive training in computer science.
To date, All Star Code has educated more than 700 students. Already the program has proven to foster a lasting impact, with 70 percent of All Star Code’s Summer Intensive graduates going on to pursue college degrees in STEM fields.
All Star Code’s corporate collaborations and sponsorships with some of the world’s top technology companies, including AT&T, Google, and Goldman Sachs, are another sign of the program’s success. The generous contributions of AT&T and Goldman Sachs, and access to on-site resources and speakers from tech companies like LinkedIn and Uber, have helped secure valuable learning opportunities for ASC’s students.
Over its first three years, All Star Code’s applications and enrollment have increased by 235 percent and 300 percent, respectively. In order to reach its goal of doubling enrollment in the Summer Intensive by 2020, All Star Code plans to expand from New York into the Bay Area and other major cities. In addition, All Star Code aims to invest in its student’s continued success by providing long-term alumni services and starting a “train the trainer” model collaborating with related organizations and community groups to inspire all students to dare greatly, celebrate failure and tell their story through coding.
“We are heartened by President Obama’s investment in computer science and STEM learning, which we believe are not only critical skills in today’s workplace, but also an ideal medium for students to build the life-long characteristics of perseverance, curiosity and confidence needed for future success in business and life,” said Christina Lewis Halpern, founder and Executive Director of All Star Code. “In collaboration with Computer Science for All, we look forward to continuing to grow our program, and joining the national conversation about how to ensure minority males have an equal opportunity and, ultimately, fair representation in the tech industry.”
In addition to the support of key corporate partners, the federal government’s ability to promote and raise awareness of technology-focused programs like All Star Code will be instrumental to ASC’s ability to sustain its growth. Joining Computer Science for All helps expand All Star Code’s network to reach not only a greater number of potential students, but also influential members of the tech and government communities and new corporate partners.
About All Star Code
All Star Code empowers young men with the skills, networks, and mindsets they need to create new futures through technology. We work towards building a world where every young man has the confidence to dare greatly, the safety to celebrate failure, and the freedom to tell his story. We are fostering entrepreneurial talent.
Christina Licata, firstname.lastname@example.org