Richmond youth tour GitHub as part of STEM program

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During a tour of the GitHub campus in San Francisco on Wednesday, Richmond girls got an up-close view of how technology professionals both work hard and play hard.

The youth are members of the Beautiful Minds STEM program, a Chevron-funded initiative for girls ages 11-15 that is part of the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL). GitHub employees hosted the girls for a day of touring, chatting and fun. They were introduced to a massive, highly entertaining office equipped with pool tables, a workout gym, rooftop garden with lounge chairs, coffee shop, a full bar and kitchens stocked with free food and drinks.

But few if any of GitHub’s employees could be seen enjoying the amenities. Most were at their desks lost in their work or in meetings.

“When they have their headphones on it means they are in a [work] zone and not to be bothered,” said Bianca Escalante, a GitHub employee who led the tour.

The visit was made possible thanks to Escalante’s longtime professional relationship with Dr. Shanita Jackson, who runs the Beautiful Minds STEM program for RPAL.

Beautiful Minds identifies 20 girls of color in the community who have a special interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, particularly in the areas of computer science and coding.

“I want the girls to understand what it’s like to work in a tech company in San Francisco, to understand the culture of tech, how you can come to work and have fun but also come to work and create really cool technology,” Jackson said.

She doesn’t want her girls to just buy phones, but to build them.

“We’re also a program where we take girls of color, who are under-represented in tech,” Jackson said.

The tour included an “Ask ’em Anything” session where kids were allowed to pepper programmers with questions about their work and career progression.

They were also taught the valuable lesson of networking. Beautiful Minds aims to create a cohort of girls who can help each other grow professionally.

Larry Lewis, the executive director for Beautiful Minds, said the program provides opportunity for youth to escape distractions.

“The crime rate for juveniles, specifically girls, has increased,” said Lewis. “So we want to do a lot more around girls specific programs. We connected with Chevron saying we have this Beautiful Minds program…we want you to create a fun opportunity for for girls in the tech industry, keeping them busy and off the street. I think the girls are just having a fantastic time.”

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