The philanthropic arm of the tech giant Google is investing in the futures of Black youth who want to pursue careers in tech. The NAACP recently announced that it has received a $3 million grant from Google.org to support initiatives surrounding STEAM education amongst youth.
The donation, which will be spread out over three years, will financially back the nonprofit’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program. The initiative provides learning and development opportunities for Black high school students to prepare them for careers in science and technology. The year-long program guides participants in bringing their ideas related to STEAM, humanities, business, and performing, visual and culinary arts from the ideation to execution stage. Students share their concepts in national competitions. Over 300,000 students have been served since the initiative’s inception.
Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO, says the donation will be instrumental in expanding the program’s reach and training the next generation of Black STEAM leaders. “ACT-SO is a celebration of black excellence,” he said in a statement. “This funding and volunteer support will help our outstanding youth, who exemplify scholastic and artistic achievement, to continue to pursue their passions free from limitations. We are excited to continue this tradition and ensure all of our students have access to mentorship in STEAM careers.”
The leadership team at Google.org is excited about the partnership. “We know that 65% of students will work in careers that don’t even exist today, so programs like ACT-SO that are preparing, recognizing, and rewarding African American students are important to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be innovators and culture makers,” said Google.org Director Justin Steele. Google.org distributes over $100 million in grants annually to support organizations focused on innovation and technology. It has a goal to award $1 billion in grants by 2022.
Initiatives like the NAACP’s ACT-SO program are needed. Research shows that African Americans remain underrepresented in the tech space, accounting for 11.9 percent of all workers in the industry.