As demand for coding skills rise, New Vision Foundation trains Twin Cities immigrant kids

A partnership between the city of St. Paul and New Vision Foundation is helping train teens in modern computer programming. Many are first generation immigrants. A new city grant will help significantly expand the number of students trained.
New Vision Foundation focuses on training disadvantaged youth, primarily African immigrants, with skills to bring them into the tech industry. Photo courtesy of New Vision Foundation

When Abdirahman Ahmed enrolled first enrolled in a coding class last January at Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul, he was fresh to the subject.

 

“I did not know anything about coding,” Abdirahman, a high school junior, told Sahan Journal. “I thought it was boring.” 

 

But he quickly grew to like it. Since then, he’s built two website homepages and several online links. Coding is fun and stress-relieving, said Abdirahman, who plans to start a career in it down the line. 

 

The same goes for Anisa Ismael, another junior at Higher Ground. Before taking the coding class, she said she didn’t really relate to the computer networking courses that her father teaches at Hennepin Technical College. 

 

“Now that I take a class in coding, I have more interest in it,” she said. 

 

After learning HTML and JavaScript, Anisa said she wants to be a web developer. 

 

These are the kind of results built into the mission of New Vision Foundation, which provides the resources and trainers for the class Ahmed and Ismael are taking. 

 

A grant announced this week from the city of St. Paul will give the organization reason to double the number of students it trains. 

 

St. Paul will award New Vision Foundation $105,000 as a part of its 2019 Neighborhood STAR Program. The grant will go toward building two computer labs and expand instruction area in New Vision Foundation’s new St. Paul headquarters, said Hussein Farah, the organization’s founder and executive director.

 

He’s also looking to train 1,000 more students and hire 10 more employees down the line.

New Vision Foundation serves 950 students in nine public schools across the Twin Cities and is seeking to double that number. Photo courtesy of New Vision Foundation

New Vision focuses on training disadvantaged youth ages 13 to 18 with skills to bring them into the tech industry. It focuses primarily on training African immigrants, whom Hussein said make up less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s information technology workforce. 

 

Hussein started the organization in 2016 as a way to help address Minnesota’s large racial income disparities, which typically rank among the worst in the nation.

 

“Our vision is to basically close down this racial income divide,” he said. 

 

The tech industry provides high-paying “jobs of the future,” Hussein said, so training African immigrants and disadvantaged youth for IT careers is one way to do so. 

 

Currently, New Vision Foundation works with nearly 950 students in nine schools across the Twin Cities, and provides 300 with laptops. 

 

Through a deal with Comcast, New Vision Foundation also provides high-speed internet access to families of students without internet for a reduced rate of $10 per month for what otherwise would have cost roughly $60. 

 

Hussein is looking at using the grant money to expand New Vision Foundation’s reach to young adults ages 18 to 26. That’s partly where building out the St. Paul headquarters comes in. 

 

While New Vision Foundation physically operates in several public schools, Hussein said parents have been requesting a space to bring their children to train as well. 

 

Building out the new headquarters sets the foundation for such a center, said Tony Peleska, who chairs New Vision Foundation’s board of directors.

 

“If they can’t make it after school and they want another place to come, we’re going to be there for them,” Peleska said. 

 

New Vision intends to add to the four trainers it currently employs and focus on hiring trainers of color, which Peleska said is important for its students to have and look up to. 

 

This isn’t New Vision Foundation’s first major grant. Previously, the organization has been awarded big grants from the St. Paul Foundation, Thrivent Foundation and others. 

Joey Peters is a contributing reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously served as staff writer for the Santa Fe Reporter and senior reporter for NM Political Report, both based in New Mexico.

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