Last night Google publicly launched their new computer science program for teens in Fruitvale’s Transit Village, a property developed and operated by The Unity Council. The after school program, Code Next, aims to cultivate the next generation of Black and Latino computer scientists. As expected, community members showed a great deal of emotion concerning this news ranging from confusion to anger to excitement. “First, let me say that Google is not re-locating its offices to Fruitvale. Their lease in the Fruitvale Village is for an after school program, not for their newest office park,” says Chris Iglesias, CEO of The Unity Council. Google has already been operating this program for the past six months at ARISE high school, a charter school also located within the Fruitvale Village. The Code Next program will work with sixty-five 8th graders from Fruitvale each school year.
The Unity Council welcomes the new program into their property. “This program is very much in alignment with the overall mission of The Unity Council, to help individuals and families build wealth and assets, and this is an initiative that our own organization would otherwise be unable to take on,” says Mr. Iglesias. Despite the fact that many Latino youth are eager to adopt new technologies, only 7 % of tech workers are Hispanic. This program is a long-term solution to creating a more equitable and diverse workforce in tech.
The Unity Council has been the target of new criticism about the initiative publicly on social media as well as in conversations with staff and board. “Building up the work of local community development corporations like The Unity Council is the best way to preserve and celebrate Fruitvale’s history and local culture,” says Mr. Iglesias. “This is about investing in place. Private investment will always catalyze change, but by running private investment through a CDC, it is more likely that the investments will promote community development and help grow local assets.”