Jocelyn Marencik, 17, of Glen Allen, Va., a junior at Deep Run High School, has delivered nearly $22,000 worth of technology equipment to 60 classrooms in more than 28 underserved schools in the Richmond area, and offered computer coding instruction to students in six of those schools. Jocelyn, who is passionate about technology and about helping others, was inspired to start her “Got Tec Richmond” initiative after reading that only 17 percent of computer science majors in the U.S. are women and less than 8 percent of either gender are African American or Hispanic. Around the same time, a local television station ran a report about the discrepancy between the technology available in inner-city schools and the tech resources in wealthier suburban areas. “This seemed highly unfair in that it doesn’t allow every student the same opportunity to learn important 21st century skills to succeed and have their own voice,” said Jocelyn. “I wanted to find a way to balance this inequitable situation.”
She first contacted principals and board members in inner-city schools and discussed with teachers her idea of offering events to teach students computer coding. Everyone was enthusiastic, so Jocelyn began fundraising by selling hats, scarves and blankets that she crocheted, organizing aluminum recycling drives, and seeking grants and donations. With funds in hand, Jocelyn asks schools what they need, shops for equipment, and makes deliveries. Additionally, 144 elementary and middle school students have attended the “Learn to Code” events that she has organized. One such event sparked so much interest that students at that school have now started a coding club, said Jocelyn. “If you can combine your volunteerism with your passion, then it is life-changing for you and for those you’ve helped,” she said.