Screenshot of Pres. Obama's Weekly Address.

President Obama launched his administration’s Computer Science For All initiative in his weekly address to the nation Saturday, an ambitious call to make coding part of the standard school curriculum in all 50 states.

San Antonio’s Youth Code Jam was cited by the White House as one of the programs in the #CSForAll initiative on the Fact Sheet distributed with the video of the president’s address, one of numerous programs the White House cited  as national models for introducing school children to programming. Click here to view the full address.

Youth Code Jam was profiled in a September story on the Rivard Report: Kids Learn to Create During Code Jam.

“As I said in my State of the Union speech, we live in a time of extraordinary change,” Pres. Obama  said at the start of the 3:54 minute address. “How can we make sure that everyone has a fair shot in this new economy? The answer to that question starts with education.”

“In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill, it’s a basic skill, right along with the three Rs,” Obama said.

The president’s address built on his recent 2016 State of the Union address in which he said, “In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

A mother and her daughters learn to code during a Code Jam session. Photo by Joan Vinson.
A mother and her daughters learn to code during a Code Jam session. Photo by Joan Vinson.

Youth Code Jam founder and CEO Debi Pfitzenmaier, reached Saturday at a local robotics competition she was attending with her children, agrees with Pres. Obama’s drive to make coding accessible to every student. “We have a new reality,” said Pfitzenmaier. “Computer science can no longer be added-on as an afterthought. There’s reading, writing, ‘rithmatic and running code. But there’s more to it than that. We must connect computer science to a career path in the eyes of the students, then provide meaningful opportunities throughout their school years to keep them engaged.”

Youth Code Jam has signed on to President Obama’s #CSForAll initiative, which aims to give “every student in America, especially girls and minorities,” access to computer science learning starting in elementary school and extending through high school.

“San Antonio Youth Code Jam commits to reach at least 1,000 students, 4th through 12th grade, with coding opportunities at events where youth, alongside their parents, can explore various programming languages and interact with volunteer mentors free of charge,” its White House Commitment statement reads. “Through support from the 80/20 Foundation, Rackspace, Google Fiber and others, the program will expand to include summer computing camps with scholarships for low-income and underrepresented students and opportunities specifically for teens on the autism spectrum.”

Nine out of 10 families surveyed nationwide want their children to be have access to computer programming in school, according to Megan Smith, the U.S. chief technology officer in the Obama administration, yet only 25% of students have access to such technology training. In a White House blog posting made in conjunction with Obama’s address on Saturday, Smith wrote that more than 600,000 tech jobs nationwide went unfilled last year because of a shortage of trained workers.

More about Youth Code Jam from its website:

“Youth Code Jam, an SA2020 Partner, strives to help students imagine themselves in the emerging technology-driven jobs of tomorrow by introducing elementary through high school students to coding activities and programming languages and by providing parents a roadmap for early coding to digital literacy to jobs.  Youth Code Jam and its team of volunteers nurture systems thinking, logic, problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, family ties and communication, the pipeline for a tech workforce, and volunteerism among industry professionals. We do this through community-wide events, summer camps, out-of-school programming and popup learning opportunities.”
Coding programs and initiatives have multiplied in San Antonio in the last three years, many funded by the 80/20 Foundation, Rackspace and local tech entrepreneurs who are seeking to address the city’s critical shortage of qualified programmers. That shortage has led to tech jobs going unfilled locally, and it has been a major factor in the city’s inability to attract more tech companies seeking new locations to move or expand operations.
*Top Image: Screenshot taken from President Obama’s Weekly Address.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.