Why I think “Inclusive Innovation” matters

A hallmark of privilege is not being able to see how it benefits us.

Listen to the audio version of this article here:


I didn’t grow up with the stereotypical privilege as we often see it. A vivid memory from my elementary school years for me was grabbing my tray of food, getting in line with all the other kids, and having my tray taken away from me by the lunch lady because I didn’t have enough money in my lunch account. They gave me 2 “PB&J graham crackers” as the alternative and I sat down in the cafeteria while my classmates had pizza, or chicken nuggets, or whatever was on the menu that day. I grew up biracial, poor, and with very few friends.


This probably isn’t the first thing to pop in your mind when you think “privilege”.

But I did grow up with many degrees of privilege. For one, I had a computer in my household. That’s how computer science reached me.

So when it came time to learn how to build a web page using just HTML in middle school, which for some reason was only after completing typing class (as if it were a prerequisite to programming), I had the opportunity to teach the teacher. This self esteem boost allowed me to further believe in myself. I feel empowered with everything involving computers.

I had online friends from all over the world.

Understanding code was as simple as looking up a tutorial on YouTube, or googling W3 Schools examples despite me also understanding it being taboo in the programming community – at least, at that time. I remember the <marquee></marquee> tag and javascript alert(“”); boxes being impressive to my schoolmates. Heck, I’m still impressed – you mean I can make text SCROLL across the web page like a news ticker??

I had preference over forum software. I spent hours researching the nuances between phpBB, MyBB, Simple Machines, etc.  and their functionality. Sometimes, I’d set it up using my webhost’s automated scripts and other times I’d do it the more manual way. I didn’t stop there either, I took time to understand content management systems, IRC. I had time to play with PHP & MySQL, tweaking things as I saw fit.

If you take away that computer, understanding these ideas and the potential for making a career goes away. The skills I learned then I use now, even as a storyteller and filmmaker.

It seems as if every part of your environment matters growing up. Many young learners don’t have computer science in their schools or their homes. Why does it matter? Well for one, quality of life and degree of freedom – the power to choose – is often determined by the careers we choose.

The average annual salary for jobs in computer science is 85k and currently there are 20,000+ open jobs in this field in Pennsylvania alone.

Flashforward to the Inclusive Innovation Summit 2019 with LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill:

“We collaborated with the AIU, Center for Creativity, and then we also collaborated with CMU academy, and CSTA Pittsburgh to talk about 3 regional approaches to implementing computer science.”

The above video took place at Point Park University during the Inclusive Innovation Summit 2019. It’s run by the URA and the City of Pittsburgh. The sole purpose is to find ways to make innovation more inclusive for everyone.

On this day – and I would know because I filmed it – the number of attendees were small but charged up and ready to see change.

“Each and every child in our region has the opportunity to learn computer science”

That’s half of the picture of the world CSforPGH is looking to create, headed by LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill who does a lot of important work in this field. If you haven’t had the chance to read through the CSforPGH quickstart guide, it’s a great contribution toward implementing computer science in more schools.

Finding ways to make STEM opportunities like coding and hardware engineering more accessible for young people is important. What they can do with those skills can change the whole world – and just as importantly, their world.

Feedback on this piece? willy@remakelearning.org

Published April 24, 2019

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