Dallas Nonprofit Bold Idea Names 2 North Texas Students for Its Inaugural Bold & Bright Awards

The award recognizes outstanding Bold Idea students who received hands-on learning and mentoring from volunteer industry professionals from top Dallas-area tech companies. The award winners showed advanced computer science skills, built creative coding projects, and have big goals.

Dallas nonprofit Bold Idea—which partners with the DISD and local corporations to offer hands-on computer science education and mentoring from industry professionals—has selected two North Texas students to receive its inaugural Bold & Bright Award. Its first honorees are Elias Land of Adamson High School in Dallas and Jessica Obonna of Wylie High School in Wylie.

The recognition highlights Bold Idea’s commitment to close the computer science opportunity gap for area students. As the mastery of computer science becomes increasingly crucial to succeed in college and careers, girls and Black and Hispanic students have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields and computer science classrooms, Bold Idea notes.

“Supporting students like Elias and Jessica is one step in the right direction towards addressing these issues,” CEO and founder Robyn Brown said in a statement. “All students deserve the opportunity to learn computer science and create their bold ideas using technology. We believe this award will provide opportunities these students need to succeed in their future computer science endeavors.”

The students will be recognized at Bold Idea’s Annual Celebration June 14 at OrderMyGear in Dallas.

The award recognizes outstanding Bold Idea students who have demonstrated advanced computer science skills, built creative coding projects, and have set goals to pursue careers and college fields of study in computer science, the nonprofit said.

Dallas corporations provide volunteer teams for Bold Idea

Bold Idea partners with the DISD and corporations to offer students hands-on learning and mentoring from industry professionals. [Photo: Bold Idea]

Brown told Dallas Innovates that “collaboration is key in creating more equitable access to computer science education.”

“We partner with Dallas corporations, who provide volunteer teams to mentor students in our program, as well as funding and opportunities for career exploration,” Brown said of the nonprofit she founded in 2015. “As a result, we can ensure that our Coding Clubs have the resources they need and are sustainable during the entire school year and over multiple years.”

Bold Idea’s corporate partners include Accenture, Alkami Technology, Credera, EY, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Fidelity Investments, Pariveda Solutions, State Farm, TEKsystems, and Texas Capital Bank.

The nonprofit currently partners with eight DISD schools—including Dallas Hybrid Prep, the first school of its kind in Texas—and plans to add three more DISD schools to its roster in the 2023-2024 school year.

“Our after-school Coding Clubs occur in the school computer lab, so transportation to our program is not a barrier,” Brown said. “Thanks to corporate partners and other contributions, we are able to offer the program to Dallas ISD students at no cost.”

Jessica Obonna

Future goals and help achieving them

Both students are high school seniors this fall and have participated in Bold Idea’s ideaSpark Coding Clubs program since middle school and are aiming for careers in technology.

“My goal is to one day use the skills I’ve learned through my Bold Idea journey and as I progress through computer science to make a positive impact,” Obonna said.

“I’d like to be more independent with my projects next year and start to advance my knowledge of coding,” she added. “I would also like to narrow down my job search and truly figure out what path I want to take with computer science and start to work towards that goal at full speed.”

Elias Land

Land has a goal in mind on how to use what he’s learned.

“My dream job is to work for law enforcement, possibly even the FBI, as a cybersecurity agent/analyst,” Land said.

“Next year, if possible, I would like to develop coding skills that will develop me in my future journey to learn cybersecurity. If not, then I would love to learn how I can take the web design skills that I already have to the next level.”

Both students will receive further college and career readiness opportunities

As Bold & Bright Award recipients, the students will receive further college and career readiness opportunities, including:

  • Personalized, one-on-one mentoring their senior year of high school to give additional coding skill development and assist with college readiness
  • A trip to NASA to job shadow an engineer in summer 2023
  • A letter of recommendation for their college applications
  • A summer 2024 internship with a local tech company upon the completion of their senior year of high school

Equipping students for the careers of the future

The 2023 Bold & Bright Award is sponsored by Roderick and Jill Burns of Dallas and IF/THEN, an initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. IF/THEN is a national initiative designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers.

Bold Idea’s mission is to help students discover computer science through hands-on learning and mentoring from industry professionals, building critical thinking skills, and equipping students to succeed in the careers of the future.

Through out-of-school Coding Clubs & Camps, the nonprofit aims to help close the opportunity gap for students in North Texas, who may not have access to education in computer science and digital literacy.

Students participate in the Coding Club after school, Brown said. Volunteer mentors who work in a technology field lead a team of students through Bold Idea’s project-based curriculum for two hours each week. In some Coding Clubs, students meet with their mentor in person, while at other clubs they interact with mentors through video conferencing.

Through 28 learning sessions, for a total of 56 hours during the school year, students work with mentors on hands-on coding projects that prioritize development in computer science and digital literacy skills, as well as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.

David Seeley contributed to this report.

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