#858 Next generation of tech stars in L.A.s grittiest neighbourhoods

URBAN TxTers

URBAN TxTers working and collaborating on their Web sites; photo from URBAN TxT Twitter stream

They come from neighbourhoods where less than half graduate from high school. Their home grounds of South Los Angeles and Watts are well known for gangs and crime. With so many hurdles to jump, they are about as likely to achieve the American Dream as they are to win the lottery.

And yet…they are young men with intelligence and promise. They deserve encouragement, support and opportunity. That is what URBAN TxT gives them.

URBAN Teens eXploring Technology (URBAN TxT) works with inner city teen males who live on the wrong side of the digital divide. The after-school program is the dream of Oscar Menjivar, and it is working.

Students focus on Web site development, but while they are learning the necessary skills they are also acquiring an education in the program’s four pillars: community, leadership, academics and technology.

In the three years of its existence, URBAN TxT has laid down an impressive foundation. In an article written by URBAN TxT’s communications director, Juan Vasquez, for Huffington Post, Menjivar said:

Over the past years we’ve served more than 100 teens, reached over 400 families, have a 95 percent retention rate and 100 percent of students that completed our program have gone into four-year universities.

Douglas Crets, Social Strategist for Microsoft BizSpark, a program that provides three years of free software, tools and technology to startups interviewed Jesus Vargas. One of URBAN TxT’s success stories, Vargas was a a high school freshman with a 2.8 grade average when a counselor encouraged him to apply for the program. His GPA soared to 3.8, and when he was interviewed on August 8, 2013 he had already built two apps.

Vargas is just one example of what URBAN TxT intends for the young men who enroll. Menjivar told Vasquez:

With us, teens develop discipline, confidence, and critical thinking skills as they develop into tech leaders. Our focus is much bigger than just the technology. For us it’s about inspiring young men to be role models for other teens and to build a positive community along the way.

Meet Oscar Menjivar in the URBAN TxT video below, created for a Razoo fundraising campaign. He grew up in Watts. He knows what is needed to give young men a promising future, and he is doing it. He gives me hope.

You can follow URBAN TxT on Twitter—lots of links, photos and videos there. Oscar Menjivar is also on Twitter.

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