Everyone wants the formula for innovation. Whether you believe it’s learned or innate, BlackEnterprise.com’s Innovator of the Week series gives you a glimpse into the lives of founders/co-founders, business execs, entrepreneurs and artists revolutionizing their respective industries through technology and social media.
In 2011, Deena Pierott created a program to expose “non-traditional STEM learners” to STEM careers and opportunities. Based in Portland, Oregon, iUrban Teen Tech introduces middle schoolers and high school-aged black and Latino males to tech tours, mentorship and job shadowing opportunities. A true believer in the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” Pierott engages with participants’ parents, so the learning continues even after activities end. More than 800 young people have experienced iUrban’s innovative programming and Pierott, who also allows young women to participate, is expanding the program beyond the Portland Metro area to Washington and California.
Pierott was honored as a White House Champion of Change and recognized as one of Ebony Magazine’s 2013 Top 100. She is the president and chief executive at Mosaic Blueprint, a recruiting source for companies searching for diverse candidates. BlackEnterprise.com honors Pierott as Innovator of the Week for her dedication to bridging the achievement gap and introducing teens to opportunities involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It takes a village to raise tomorrow’s tech leaders
“That village for iUrban is academia. It includes the parents; it includes the youth; and it includes the business community…We always include parents. They’re heavily engaged in everything that we do. In fact, now, we have a two-hour parent roundtable that occurs during the summit when the kids are off doing their work.”
Target demographic for iUrban Teen Tech is African-American and Latino males
“I always wanted to focus on males because there are enough programs focusing on girls and women,” says Pierott. “Those focuses are made and are needed, but I feel our black and brown males keep falling further and further through the cracks because there are no special programs for them…our focus is on males, but we include everyone. We have a lot of girls that come to our program, too.”
Why the A in STEAM is important
In addition to the one-day summit and ongoing tech tours at big name companies like Nike and Intel, the program offers digital storytelling and animation, as well as media training. “Creativity creates innovation,” Pierott notes. “If we’re talking about an innovative society, we have to develop on that creativity piece.”
“Those kids,” says the Champion of Change honoree. “When it comes to kids, you just make things happen!”