© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Connecticut nonprofit offers scholarships to high schoolers to learn high-tech skills

District Tech Program
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Software engineering teacher Mohameth Seck (right) works with student Mary Francoise Soropogui (center) and instructor Kay Detome (left) on the website Soropogui is building as part of a District Arts and Education program. The program provides immersive tech programs for high school students and adults in New Haven and Stamford.

Local high school students who are interested in learning how to code will get a chance through District Arts and Education, a New Haven-based nonprofit organization that provides immersive tech programs.

The organization announced that it has 20 $10,600 full scholarships for underrepresented students for its 12-month programs in New Haven and Stamford. Scholarship applications are being accepted through Nov. 18.

“We have designed a place that has a strong emphasis on human development,” said A.M. Bhatt, the nonprofit’s founder and CEO. “Human development that’s grounded in clarity of personal values and commitments. Tech is a great set of tools to help young students get a sense of what they want to contribute to the world.”

District Tech Program
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Senior MacHenry Charles works on code for the website he’s building as part of a program run by nonprofit District Arts and Education in New Haven. The organization announced that it has 20 full scholarships for underrepresented students for its 12-month programs in New Haven and Stamford.

The project-based program is offered to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Beyond the hard technology skills, educators also focus on soft skills like being able to collaborate with fellow students and communicate information.

Mohameth Seck, a DAE software engineering teacher and former student, said he always wanted to be an engineer, like his father.

“I’ve always wanted to be an inventor,” Seck said. “My dad was an engineer, and I’ve always wanted to be like my dad. But he was a civil engineer and architect. I wanted to get into the hardware of things.”

The West Haven native was a University of Hartford student, majoring in electrical engineering before discovering DAE’s program.

“I realized that college wasn’t really my thing because I knew exactly what I wanted to learn, which was coding,” said Seck, who took a leave of absence from college when he found out he was accepted into DAE’s program. “The first year, I learned foundational software engineering. The second year, I specialized in web design, which were all things I wanted to learn.”

Seck was then asked by the organization to help run a summer program. The next thing he knew, he became a DAE teacher.

“It was a very nontraditional path that I took, but it’s important to know that not everyone can go to college,” he said. “Other options are important. This is a great community; everyone’s from different backgrounds and we learn so much from each other. I never thought I would become a teacher, but here I am.”

District Tech Program
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Software engineering teacher Mohameth Seck speaks to students in the District Arts and Education immersive tech program in New Haven. Before teaching, Seck was a student in DAE’s adult program. “This is a great community; everyone’s from different backgrounds and we learn so much from each other,” he said.

For the 2022-23 academic year, DAE will have roughly 170 students across its two high school campuses in New Haven and Stamford. There's an additional estimated 75 adult students in its adult skills academy.

For Bhatt, it was really important to help bring equity to underrepresented students when it comes to education.

“It’s also the right thing to do,” he said. “We have neighborhoods and populations that we haven’t brought into the industrial age in terms of equity, and certainly not the digital age. We’re here to cultivate generations of diverse tech talent.”

Krish Patel hopes to be a part of that future talent. The Wilbur Cross High School senior started the program earlier this year and loves the hands-on experience.

“I was always interested in coding and tried to learn how to do it by Googling it myself,” Krish said. “But it’s hard to understand it that way. When I found out about DAE, I got interested, applied and got a spot. Now it’s not just me and Google.”

He’s working on a cyber security project where he teaches people the importance of learning about potential scams and prevention. While learning how to code, Krish said he’s surprised that he became comfortable working with other people along the way.

“As a kid, I was nervous to introduce myself to new people,” Krish said. “But being a part of this program, now I can sit with a group of random people and be comfortable introducing myself to them and talking with them.”

Catherine Shen is a Connecticut Public’s education reporter. The Los Angeles native comes to CT Public after a decade of print and digital reporting across the country.