We Connect the Dots has been inspiring and creating opportunities for underprivileged children and young adults interested in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) since 2013.
With women making up only 27 percent of the nation’s computer science professionals, the Westbury organization was created to include more women; its mission has expanded since then. Students can form career goals and receive real-world experience through innovative programs. Most participating students are from the tri-state area, specifically Nassau and Suffolk County.
“We help under-utilized populations find out about these opportunities and learn about the skills that they really need,” said Laurie Carey, founder of WCTD.
The nonprofit’s virtual coding programs teach computational skills necessary for a career in STEAM. Students collaborate on projects and earn accomplishment pins. Students in the Community Ambassador Program can also teach coding classes to beginner students.
“I’ve interned at NASA and I’m not sure that’s something I would have had the opportunity to do without some of the experiences I’ve had with We Connect the Dots and other high school programs,” said Caeley Looney, a former WCTD ambassador who founded a nonprofit for women in STEM, Reinvented Magazine.
WCTD also hosts an annual Code-A-Thon, where youth learn and advance their coding and technical skills. This year’s fully virtual Code-A-Thon takes place from January 29 to 31.
WTCD offers scholarships, including one for the after-school coding program as well as the Code-A-Thon. The CreatingSTEAM Summer Program awards a student with $1,350 for the 10-day program’s expenses and transportation.
Computer science teachers are also trained by industry experts in WCTD so that they can teach skills to their own students, according to Carey.
“It’s really about a community impact, not just the students but the teachers, the whole community,” Carey said, calling the program a really amazing model that brings people together. “They say, ‘Hey, I got through this, I created a career here, let me go back and be a coach…or a trainer for somebody else and help other students.’”