Dayton Non-Profit helps Youth Prepare for Computer and IT Occupations

By Tracy E. Phillips

Contributed by: The Columbus & Dayton African American News Journal

We live in a society that increasingly depends on technology to assist us with a multitude of tasks ranging from commerce to communication. Along, with the rapid integration of technology comes the need for workers who have the knowledge and skills required to fill job positions in this growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent by 2026.

Back to Basics Youth Education Center in Dayton, Ohio is an after-school program that helps prepare inner city youth enrolled in elementary through high school for the expanding computer science job market by introducing them to the key technology that drives this field. Students who attend the program also receive mentoring and tutoring services. The Back to Basics Youth Education Center is located in the downtown district across from the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center. Lawrence Lindsey, the Founder and Director, is a 1968 graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School who also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from Central State University and a Master of Science degree in Counselor Education from the University of Dayton. A commitment to helping African American students after school began long before Lindsey opened Back to Basics Youth Education Center earlier this year.

Lawrence Lindsey was as a middle school guidance counselor for the Fairfax County Public Schools for over twenty years before retiring and moving back to Dayton in 2014. Before his employment as a middle school guidance counselor, he served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army. “During my employment with Fairfax County Public Schools, I started a nonprofit after school program to mentor and tutor African American students who were struggling academically. When I moved back to Dayton in 2014, I wanted to give back to my city, and I convinced the principal of Dunbar High School to allow me to begin a free tutoring and mentoring program there,” Lindsey said. Shortly after the program began at Dunbar, Lindsey decided to restructure it.  Lawrence Lindsey explains, “I redirected the focus of my non-profit program and began to introduce students to computer technology in addition to providing them with mentoring and tutoring services. I made this decision because I realized that students in Dayton did not have the same level of access to the technology that students in Fairfax County, Virginia had access to. I also wanted to bridge the digital divide.” The digital divide is a term used to describe the gap that exists between those who have computers and online access and those who do not.

In 2015, Lindsey decided he wanted to create a center that would benefit all interested students in Dayton and the surrounding areas. It took Lindsey three years to get the center up and running because he primarily used his own money to fund the program. Lindsey also contacted local businesses to ask them to donate money and computer equipment. LexisNexis responded by donating several laptop computers to the program. Additionally, Kevin Kirkle, who is employed as a full-time computer programmer, volunteered his time by teaching students how to program computers. Kirkle volunteers at the center every Monday during the school year. Additionally, Lindsey formed a Board of Trustees that includes, Horace Bowins, Program Manager, Kevin Kirkle, Computer Programmer, Dianna Harris, Treasurer, and Francia Davis, Secretary. Lawrence Lindsey is the President of the board. The Back to Basics Youth Education Center officially opened its doors in March.

Online computer modules are currently used in the program to teach students how to code computers. Understanding how to code computers is key when creating computer software, apps and websites:

  • Code.org introduces students to coding games, exercises and other online tools that promote computer learning.

  • CodeAcademey.com is described as a more challenging interactive platform that offers free coding learning games and modules.

  • CodeNow.org provides online learning modules designed for middle and high school students and teaches foundational skills in computer programming.

  • CodeAvengers.com is an online learning platform that teaches web development. It is recommended as a learning tool, if students are interested in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It is also considered a great tool for learning computer programming.

  • The Flatrion School of Computer Coding in New York City is a coding boot camp with technology’s most effective software engineering and web development courses.

In addition to learning computer science skills, students in their junior and senior year of high school have had the opportunity to intern at LexisNexis and Frontier Technology, Inc. Lawrence Lindsey often quotes former President Barack Obama when talking with students who participate in the program, “...computers are going to be a big part of your future. And if you’re willing to work hard enough that future is yours to shape.” Lindsey also likes to quote motivational speaker Les Brown who said, “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one. Than to have one and not be prepared.”

Although the program currently receives $45.00 per student per month through the Combined Federal Campaign, a large portion of the funding continues to come from Lawrence Lindsey. Grant Writer, Bonny Taggert was recently hired through GrantWriters.com to assist with securing grant funding; however, donations are also welcome. According to Lindsey, the program is still growing and obtaining additional funding is very important.

Moving forward, Lawrence Lindsey plans to add 10 more laptop computers to the center bringing the total number to 20. Additionally, Linsey is still accepting students enrolled in elementary, middle and high school who are interested in the computer science careers. Parents are asked to provide transportation, and they must sign a letter of consent. Lindsey is also looking for more individuals to volunteer their time and expertise at the center. “If you have any knowledge of computer coding and computer programming, please volunteer at the center,” Lindsey said.  

To donate and for more information on Back to Basics Youth Education Center

Website:  http://www.lbtbyec.org

Telephone number: (937) 963-2518.

120 West Second Street

Suite 611

Dayton, OH 45402

Lawrence Lindsey (Director)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tracy Phillips is a librarian who currently co-manages a large library branch in the Dayton Metro Library system. She formerly worked for the Free Library of Philadelphia before moving back to Ohio nine years ago. She is also a freelance writer who primarily writes about education, nonprofits and library and information science.

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