A Twin Cities nonprofit is planning to open a new learning center in 2020 to teach computer coding to young people of color in the metropolitan area. The New Vision Foundation will open the center …Dec 27th 2019 · 2 min read
A Twin Cities nonprofit is planning to open a new learning center in 2020 to teach computer coding to young people of color in the metropolitan area.
The New Vision Foundation will open the center in St. Paul in spring, founder and executive director Hussein Farah said recently. With the new space will come new classes open to young adults ages 16 to 28, he said, in addition to offerings already available to school-age youth.
Hussein Farah (Forum News Service)Seated at a coffee shop in Southeast Minneapolis, Farah said that now is an “exciting time” for the 3-year-old organization. “We just want people to know that we are here to stay,” he said.
Farah launched the foundation in 2016 several years after he departed from the African Development Center, a financial counseling organization in Minneapolis he helped to establish in 2003. Born in Somalia and raised in Kenya, Farah said he moved to Minnesota in the early 2000s after earning his master’s degree in management information systems and working in that field for a time in Washington, D.C. He said that he was inspired to make the move after reading news articles on Minnesota’s Somali communities.
“I was losing my sense of belonging,” he said, and felt compelled to help the poorer people among those communities.
That work continues today in New Vision, which Farah said he intends to grow in the coming years. The foundation offers computer coding classes at no cost to an estimated 1,100 students in 11 public schools throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, and employs six full-time instructors.
At a time when educators are making an effort to interest more young women in technology careers, Farah said that New Vision can boast that slightly more than half of its students are female. The foundation also offers classes to low-income students in Kenya, he said, whom his U.S. students correspond with over email.
WORKING WITH TECH DUMP, COMCAST
Classes are sponsored by a mix of community foundations and local corporate partners, the latter of which have taken an interest in strengthening the local talent pipeline, Farah said. By working with metropolitan area electronics recycler Tech Dump, the foundation has managed to provide refurbished laptops for students.
Through a deal with Comcast, the foundation has been able to provide high-speed internet access to New Vision students’ families, ensuring that they can complete their homework assignments. Other business sponsors offer paid internships to students in collaboration with the foundation.
The hope, Farah said, is that students will be able to pursue well-paying careers and remain in Minnesota after they graduate from high school. Some careers in technology, he said, do not even require a four-year degree.
A similar mix of public and private partners will make the move to St. Paul possible. Thanks to its partners and a grant from the city of St. Paul, Farah said New Vision will be able lease 3,000 square feet of space in the Midway from Tech Dump. He put the total cost of renovating the space at about $200,000. When complete, he said it will feature two computer labs and a conference room.
The neighborhood it will inhabit is served both by Metro Transit’s light rail and bus system.
Farah said he hopes to translate the foundation’s efforts in the cities to greater Minnesota as well. In the near future, he said that New Vision hopes to have classes sponsored in three heavily requested cities: Rochester, St. Cloud and Willmar.
“We are in the process of building enough capacity to go to those cities,” he said.
In time, Farah said he hopes to make a statewide program of New Vision. Within five to 10 years, he said he hopes it will go nationwide.