Tech Journey was founded in 2013 by Antonio Kioko and Dave Kessler to help students with limited resources be inspired by and pursue careers in technology. The pair created Tech Journey out of their mutual desire to get underprivileged Des Moines students engaged with technology and allow them to see it as a viable career option. Even before that first camp in 2013, Tech Journey’s founders knew they would be committing to a multi-year partnership with their students.
“The idea is we’re not just doing one camp and walking away. We’re figuring out how to engage these kids and making this process a continuing journey,” Kioko says.
Providing technology opportunities and exposure to youth help encourage them to pursue a career in expanding technology fields. While there are opportunities to learn about technology basics in school systems and personal pay programs, there are no local in-depth opportunities for youth with limited resources to explore technology. In addition, there are very few avenues for IT professionals in Des Moines to directly engage youth and encourage them to pursue a technology career.
Tech Journey’s mission has been carried out through its annual Tech Camp program, reaching 130 students in grades 8-12 during its first six years. Each Tech Camp student is provided a new laptop, Google account, curriculum and access to local professionals who serve as volunteer instructors and mentors.
In 2019, Tech Journey refreshed its strategic roadmap with updated initiatives and plans for two additional programs: YouthCode and CoderDojoDSM. The YouthCode program provides opportunity to expand reach to elementary and middle school students by introducing them to coding and robotics through the delivery of workshops, instructional classes, camps and ad-hoc events while serving as an onramp to Tech Camp. The YouthCode program also enables employment opportunities for older Tech Camp students to gain experience and income while working as program assistants.
The CoderDojoDSM program is open to any student and intended for ongoing mentoring of students who want to hone their technology skills in a less-structured, creative and social environment. CoderDojoDSM enables students to also maintaining interaction with local technology professionals serving as volunteer mentors.
All three programs in Tech Journey’s portfolio focus on inspiring youth to learn about and engage with technology while developing deep roots for central Iowa’s future tech pipeline.