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Crockett Foundation Seeks to Inspire Next Generation of Tech Wizards


How many of you follow the National Football League and the Oakland Raiders on the internet let alone on a mobile device? I bet if you play Fantasy Football, you use a mobile app to manage your team(s).

An entire generation of kids is growing up using the internet on mobile devices, not desktop or laptop computers. CBS Sunday Morning recently aired a feature about a growing number of young people eschewing college or quitting early in their collegiate endeavors to become technology entrepreneurs. 

The Girls Who Code non-profit organization has shined a spotlight on the need to get more young people involved in computer science. According to their official web site, "In middle school, 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.4% of high school girls select computer science."

Former Oakland Raiders fullback and current scout Zack Crockett, and his brother, former NFL linebacker Henri Crockett, and their foundation are endeavoring to inspire the next generation of tech wizards in their hometown with a unique afterschool program.

With the Oakland Raiders organization sitting at the mouth of Silicon Valley, Zack came to the realization that kids in his hometown in Broward County, Fla., didn't have the same technology education resources available to kids in California. He teamed up with his brother to create the Coding in Academics (CIA) program, which is held every Friday at Broward College.

"[Zack] was talking about how he is in the scouting world, and everything was going digital and how much time he was spending on the computer, and he said this world is really moving toward tech, I said you should really consider getting a handle with this thing with kids and start opening their eyes, and create resources and tools for these kids to get involved with it," Henri Crockett said. "Especially in California; everything is tech in California. We thought it would be a good opportunity for us to get out front. Kids are not just competing with kids at their school. He's seeing how far along the kids are on the west coast and we're nowhere near their league. Let's try and present them with a program with the possibility that we could level the playing field."

According to NBC Miami's Ari Odzer, 30 students from Deerfield Beach Middle School enrolled in the CIA program, which is backed by the Crockett Foundation.

"Everyone learns at different paces, and technology is so advanced, we have to compete internationally with these kids," Zack Crockett said. "To use more innovative ways for these kids to learning, use the gaming systems, animations, that's what these kids are into, to create fun ways to learn, that's the best way to go."

"Not only are we educating them, we're giving them tools that they can use. Zack's whole thing was we have to get them tools so they turn those tools into making money. It's not good enough to just give them education," Henri Crockett said. "When they leave this program in middle school, they are certified in Microsoft, they're certified in JavaScript, so they have certifications they can go out and get a job with."

According to the Crocketts, engagement and attendance are unlike anything you've seen in an afterschool program.

"You're starting to see kids come out of their shell, they're being more creative, they're being innovative, it's built their confidence up," Henri Crockett said. "Now you're starting to see their grades come up; they're coming to school more because they don't want to miss this program. It's amazing when that light comes on what a kid can do. You start seeing the way they treat people, the way they start carrying themselves, everything changes. It just gives kids hope. It's hard to dream when the most successful guy they know is a drug dealer."

According to Zack, the Crocketts are paying attention to other movements like Girls Who Code and hope to grow their program.

"We're trying to find any way we can branch out and be able to help our youth, especially in our own community, if we can branch out to other communities, that's even better," Zack Crockett said. "To see that young women are being advanced in that area, and as well as us starting it, we feel as though we get kids in middle school, the elementary level, while they're developing, we've caught them before they get to high school, where they're already set in their ways."

Zack Crockett says the key to reaching young people is to pay attention to what kids are doing and reach them through their preferred activities.

"Something catches their attention, and we have to use that. They're so in tune to video games and what's hot at that moment. We have to tap into that market," Zack Crockett said. "There's not traditional ways the way we learned back in the day, to find these ways with the coding and everything for these kids to help them learn and advance is going to be beneficial."

The Crockett Foundation was established in 2002, and Zack and Henri have been involved with the young people of South Florida through various events, programs, activities, and football camps.  

"To work with your brother is something like no other," Zack Crockett said.

When you look at the internet's humble beginnings and how clunky (by today's standards) our online experience used to be and see how ubiquitous and seemingly necessary it's usage is today, we will always need new applications to navigate the electronic world we now live in. More importantly, we need the next generation of thinkers to create them. Football players serve as role models and heroes for young people, why shouldn't football players be the ones to inspire kids to take this path?

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