At City Year, we see on a daily basis that there are certain skills every student should know to be college and career ready, and computer literacy is one of them. City Year and our National Leadership Sponsor Microsoft, along with countless other organizations, have partnered to support the development of these skills.

Lori Forte Harnick, General Manager of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Microsoft, shares her take on Code.Org and Computer Science Education Week below. Keep reading to find out more about the 10 million students joining together this week in an Hour of Code.

By Lori Forte Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

This week is Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), a moment in time that I believe has the power to change lives. In my role at Microsoft I see on a daily basis that computer science education can be a revelation for students. For a topic that is so integral to our daily lives – how we learn, work, play, and connect with friends and family – coding is simultaneously a mystery to most students and a potential pathway to a bright future.

To celebrate and promote CSEdWeek, Microsoft is partnering with Code.org and other leading technology companies to encourage 10 million students to join the “Hour of Code” campaign. All it takes is one hour. There will be many activities to introduce young people to coding. Everyone is invited to join us at a Microsoft store where we will offer free coding lessons on Kodu Game Lab and TouchDevelop.

Why do we believe it is critical for students to learn to code and have access to computer science classes? It represents an entryway to a career in one of the fastest-growing industries. Right now, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, yet computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average and are among the top paying fields.

We realize that one of the biggest reasons for this disparity is lack of access. That’s why Microsoft rallies around initiatives like CSEdWeek and runs programs of our own through our YouthSparkinitiative. One example is TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), which pairs computer engineers from Microsoft and other tech companies with full-time high school teachers to teach basic and advanced computer science. This school year, the TEALS program is in 70 schools in 12 states, reaching more than 3,300 students with the support of 280 volunteers. Each year we hear from more states and school districts asking how they can add a TEALS program to their high schools. It’s clear that students and teachers are eager to learn how to code.

Through TEALS, Ifrah Abshir at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School went from barely knowing how to turn on a computer to a dream of bringing her skills to medical school and teaching a programming class to patients and doctors in a hospital.

When I hear from students like Ifrah or Jeremy Moore from rural Beattyville, Kentucky, it is an inspirational reminder that access to computer science classes can change lives, open doors, and make the impossible come to life.

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