Petrina Carter noticed a gap between the haves and have nots in Halifax County in terms of access to technology when she came aboard as president and CEO of Tri-County Community Action Agency.
Microsoft’s donation of 10 SurfacePro 3 laptops to the Halifax County Mentor-Role Program on Monday should help address that learning gap, Carter noted. She noticed a technology gap in youth ages 5-18 in the county, an area where more than 30 percent of those youths live below the poverty level.
The donation of the 10 laptops will allow the Mentor-Role Model Program, now underneath the umbrella of Tri-County Community Action Agency, to help girls in the organization’s girls’ coding program to get a leg up on computer skills, according to Carter. The coding program as it currently exists is for girls ages 6-18, but one of Carter’s goals is to bring it to girls at the pre-school level.
“It’s a national program running in conjunction with the middle school,” said Carter. “I’m hoping it will spark the interest of young people who want to go further in technology, whether gaming or coding.” Five mentors are currently involved in the Mentor-Role Model Program, according to Carter, and Tina Wyatt-Younger, executive director for the Mentor-Role Model Program, has recruited 10 others, with those potential mentors currently undergoing a vetting process. “Our coding class is good for education, and whoever uses the Surface Pros can go out and look at the world in a whole new light,” said Wyatt-Younger. “We are very thankful and appreciative of Microsoft donating those Surface Pros.”
Jeremy Satterfield, Microsoft TechSpark manager for Southern Virginia and a former mentor in the role model program while working at Halifax Regional Hospital, made the presentation on Monday. “It was a very rewarding experience, and the time I spent with my mentee each week was phenomenal,” said Satterfield. “Part of Microsoft TechSpark’s work to foster new economic opportunities in southern Virginia is supporting nonprofits like the Mentor Role Model Program and the impact they can make in our community. “Since launching TechSpark we’ve worked with the Mentor Role Model Program to support their programming to help local youth chart a better future and saw an opportunity to upgrade the technology students use with new Surface Pros.
“Now students will have a place with the latest technology to go online to do their homework, research colleges or job training programs to pursue and even provide a place where groups like our local Girls Who Code Club can explore computer coding,” he added. Microsoft’s TechSpark donated the laptop/tablet devices to the Mentor Role Model Program in South Boston for use in their student activity room. Southern Virginia is one of six communities chosen for Microsoft’s TechSpark initiative to foster economic opportunities in rural and smaller metropolitan areas through broadband connectivity, computer science education and digital skills development, career pathways and nonprofit support.
In southern Virginia, TechSpark has worked to increase computer science education, including expanding the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program in Southern Virginia high schools to offer more students opportunities to learn computer science and digital skills. TechSpark also has leveraged its partnerships with organizations like Code.org, Girls Who Code and DigiGirlz to offer more students in the region computer science and digital skills learning opportunities.
In April, Microsoft announced a partnership with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) to build the SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston. It will serve as a center and collaborative workspace from which to deliver impactful digital skills, career pathway and entrepreneurial programming to the region.