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Google’s Code Next searches for next black and Hispanic tech leaders

The program will start by opening tech labs in Oakland, California, and Harlem

Google is trying to address the lack of access to technology in black and Hispanic communities with a new initiative called Code Next. Taking place in a lab environment, the program aims to introduce and promote science education in the lives of black and Hispanic kids.

Computer science education is highly valued in the United States. But 51 percent of black students and 47 percent of Hispanic students don’t have the access to computer classes in schools, according to research conducted by Google.

Code Next has been in the works since its pilot in January. It was officially announced earlier this month that the initiative — with the help of the MIT Media Lab, The Unity Council and Kurani Design — will open its first 1,500-square-foot tech lab in Oakland, California.

The program, funded by Google, is free for each participant. The projects, including designing, complex programming and 3-D printing, are driven solely by the participants.

Partner organizations, such as Black Girls Code and local middle schools, will nominate students to join Code Next. Participants will own their technology creations, and they can share them with their community.

The program will open its next location in Harlem, New York, in 2017. Google chose the two locations — Oakland and Harlem — “based on density of the target student population and commitment to [computer science] education at both the grassroots and partner levels,” according to a news release. The company hopes to expand across the country in the years to come.

“During my visits to the pilot program, I was humbled by the participants’ questions, focus and commitment,” wrote Nilka Thomas, Google’s director of diversity and inclusion. “Looking out over a crowd of 30 young people coding, whiteboarding and 3-D printing — all while celebrating each other’s company — convinced me that Code Next has power to transform both our industry and the communities in which we live.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.