East Palo Alto sits in between Facebook and Google’s Silicon Valley campuses. But despite their close proximity, they’re typically considered to be two different worlds.
Formerly known as the murder capital of the country, East Palo Alto has double the unemployment rate of its neighbor to the west. And one-third of its residents don’t have more than a high school diploma. That’s where StreetCode Academy, part of the philanthropic East Palo Alto-based organization Live in Peace, comes in.
“StreetCode started in response to what we already know, which is, there are a lot of quality ideas, innovative ideas being left out of the current tech ecosystem,” Olatunde Sobomehin of StreetCode (pictured above on left) told me. “We also knew that there was a lot of value and creativity and innovation that lives in East Palo Alto. That disconnect — we wanted to be that gap, and stand in that gap and connect those two realities.”
That’s why Live in Peace has tried a number of different approaches to bridge those two worlds via hackathons and, most recently, a four-week accelerator called StreetCode. The accelerator culminated with a demo day earlier this month where the students showcased their work and the skills they learned during the program.
Live in Peace’s programs have received some support from Silicon Valley, with Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox recently making a $1 million investment in the organization. But Sobomehin hopes to make even more connections and partnerships with people in Silicon Valley.
“We want to partner with as many people as possible,” Sobomehin said. “We want to partner with mentors and industry folks. We want to partner with companies. We just want to create the best Silicon Valley that we can, you know, the most equitable Silicon Valley. We think that we can show Silicon Valley how to really build technology equitably and we believe we have a model for how you can be inclusive.”
Already, Live in Peace’s coding programs have resulted in significant outcomes for students. Just one year ago, David Chatman started learning HTML and CSS through one of the programs offered through Live in Peace.
By the end of it, Chatman had created his own startup called Ambition Spotlight, and just a few weeks ago, he joined Facebook’s design team. StreetCode Academy will pick up again at the beginning of next year.