Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

What's up, folks? We're going to start going live on Thursdays. I want to bring to your attention, the Art of Advocacy livestream is going to be happening on Thursdays at 6:30 PM eastern. My very first guest this Thursday, March 3rd, is my good friend, Dr. Darrell Howard, of BOND Learning Leadership Institute. The topic is, imagine a school where every Black boy was doing well. The Art of Advocacy, live streaming every Thursday, 6:30 Eastern. So make sure that you're following the Leading Equity Center Facebook page. You can also catch us on YouTube via the Leading Equity Center YouTube page as well. And there's links there in the show notes so you can stay connected. But I hope that you can join us for this important topic.

               On today's show, I brought on a good friend of mine, Coach Victor Hicks is here with us. And we're going to be talking about coding, and how coding can introduce our Black students into historically Black colleges and universities. In this conversation, we started off by talking, is coding alone the answer? And then Victor shares with us a project that he does in his classroom, that allows the students to investigate historically Black colleges, and create their own. This is a really good episode, if you're looking to not only engage your Black students, but you're also looking to introduce them to careers and colleges. This is definitely an episode that you do not want to miss. Coach Victor Hicks is the founder and lead instructor of Coding with Culture, an organization designed to teach computer science and digital literacy through an HBCU-ready lens, to scholars in grades K through eight. Victor's mission is to get as many scholars as possible exposed to the rich history and cultures of historically Black colleges and universities.

               Welcome to the Leading Equity Podcast. My name is Dr. Sheldon L Eakins. And for over a decade, I've helped educators become better advocates for their students. What is an advocate? An advocate is someone who recognizes that we don't live in a just society. Advocates aren't comfortable with the status quo, and are willing to speak up on behalf of others. No matter where you are in your journey towards ensuring all of your students are equipped with the resources they need to thrive, I'm here to help you build your knowledge and confidence to you ensure equity at your school.

               Welcome advocates, to another episode of the Leading Equity Podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their schools. Today I have a special guest, someone that I met a couple weeks ago, and I'm really excited. We've met at Idea Con in Chicago, Illinois. We hit it off, Coach Victor Hicks is awesome. So you are in for a treat, as we talk today about coding and computer science, and things of that nature, and how we can get our Black kids especially involved more, and if there's more that we can do. So without further ado, Victor, thank you so much for joining us today.

Coach Victor Hicks:

Oh, it is my pleasure to be here. Awesome, thank you for inviting me.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

The pleasure is always mine. So, let's do this. I know who you are. We've had a chance [crosstalk 00:03:19], we've talked, we've had that. But there's folks out there that are listening that are not familiar with Coach Victor Hicks. So, could you share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do?

Coach Victor Hicks:

All right. Well as you said, I am Coach Hicks, which has stemmed from my original venture into really culturally sustainable experiences for students. And I was actually as a STEM coach in the first elementary school I taught, after leaving Clark, Atlanta. Currently working with Coding With Culture, which is my K through eight computer science school business, so to speak, that really focuses on developing computer science, STEM, and design thinking skills in students of color, more specifically Black students in the K through eight space. And we do that through exposure to historically Black colleges, their history and their culture, and also exposing our scholars to those institutions as a means to pursue careers in computer science and technology.

               I'm also a proud teacher at St. Thomas Moore school here in Decatur, Georgia, where I teach K through eight STEM. And I am moderating the school STEM team there, and working with our St Josephine Bakhita Culture Club, which again, serves the same focus as Coding with Culture. It's exposing our African and African American students to opportunities in computer science and STEM. And I'm also a proud uncle. So many things, wear many hats, but it's really good to be here to discuss such an important topic.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

Let's do it, let's do it. All right, so we see a lot of push, and STEM is not necessarily my area. I'm a history teacher by heart. And I see a lot of information, a lot of programs that are out there, that are trying to get folks into coding. And I wanted to start off with getting your take, as far as coding, and I guess the relationship between coding, and getting more Black kids involved in coding, as a means to introduce them to STEM. However, I want to know your take: is coding the end all, be all for us?

Coach Victor Hicks:

I think it is a great and viable entry into the world of computer science. And I think the movement's been going on, I think Hour of Code has been around maybe for about 11 years now, where there was really a big push to get kids before even middle school. It's been a career path for middle school students for a while, but about 11 years ago, we really got this push to get younger kids into code. I think it is, again, a wonderful introduction. I wouldn't agree that it is the end all, be all. And I say that because as we move toward, or continue to move towards becoming a more 21st century society, and what we're looking for as far as the job market in technology, and the larger umbrella under STEM, there's so many different facets that contribute, let's say to a project, or to that field.

               So, in looking at being proactive in closing the digital divide for Black students, one of the things I found, and again, I will say for most teachers it's very easy to get caught in the coding, I guess hamster wheel, so to speak. And again, it was a very worthwhile experience for my students. What I realized is that that's not going to be everybody's thing. That's not going to be the thing that's going to be sustainable past, what I call the gamification of computer science. Because we do present it to kindergarten through fifth grade students. In being an age appropriate platform, a lot of it is gamified, so a lot of the things we see when we teach ELA, or have students practice skills in other core classes, we do make it appealing to that age group.

               But I think that once we look at why we do it, why we are exposing children and why it's important, we also have to look at marketability of skill. And I think as we move towards 2022 and beyond, the reality with machine learning and artificial intelligence, a lot of the actual typing or writing of the code, so to speak, will be automated. And I think, again, it's a very specific skill. And the reality is it's not going to appeal to everyone, to sustain as it begins to get more challenging. So, I do think that Black children are naturally creative, and there are different opportunities for people in the industry, who need to be able to think in the mindset of creating computer programs, or just I think, computational thought period. The problem solving techniques.

               But their particular job may deal with the organization of the project. Their particular part of the job may deal with UI, the user experience. What does that look like? The graphic design that goes behind apps and websites. So, there's a lot of different things that I think, where children's natural talents and interests can come in and still be a part of that 21st century workspace. So yeah, I think again, coding, is it worthwhile? Yes. Do we need to expose our kids to more opportunities earlier? Again, I'm trying to think how I can say this. I guess, using the coding as a foundation, but then building upon that with their natural talents and skills. So a good gateway, but definitely not the end game.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

All right, and that makes sense. Coding isn't for everybody, and I could imagine that there's going to be students that are going to be interested in science, that are going to be interested in STEM related areas. And I like how you'd mentioned, well, it's a great way to introduce folks, but at the end of the day, it's not necessarily something that they'll be doing in the future. Things will change. And so okay, so here's a question I have. Because I don't have a coding background, but I've heard of certain things, such as HTML and Javascripts, and all these different things. Do you recommend maybe certain programs, such as maybe Scratch or other programs that will, again, be great as an introduction? And I guess the next question would be, how do we build from there?

Coach Victor Hicks:

Okay. So, I would say a lot of the... And again, for new computer science teachers, or media specialists, or teachers that are incorporating code, honestly the path looks very different for everybody. So, I was fortunate to be able to serve in the realm of a computer science teacher. So I had a 10 week, 20 week period where I saw kids weekly, middle school, every day, and teach a computer science curriculum almost to fidelity. So, I would say that a lot of the initial efforts in getting K through five computer science programs out, are a great place to start. When we look at our tutorials, a few more of the companies that have more kind of, code this, figure out this code, or write this program, move on to the next level, is a great introduction.

               I think Scratch would kind of be the mid ground. One of the things I think is really important that when we teach kids computer science, is the collaborative piece. Because again, as we prepare them for 21st century college and career, we know one of those skills that the job market and schools are looking for is the ability to be able to collaborate. So I think transferring the, I guess you would say almost the direct learning, or excuse me, direct instruction with the tutorial. So your Code.orgs, some of the ones that are more right or wrong based. Moving the kids there into collaborative groups, into your Scratch type situation, what we call in computer science, the sandbox. So, there's not a list of instructions that tells you know, "Code this, code that."

               It's more like, well, I'll use one of my kids' projects for an example. As a part of our Design an HBCU unit, they have to program a website for this fictitional HBCU that they build. So with that case, we go through a couple of the tutorials, to get the HTML skill, or the syntax it takes to be able to program using that programming language. And then set the scholars loose to create, and show what they know. I think too with that, what I've learned just in reflecting on my own teaching and learning in my classroom, is allowing students to work in different job roles. So again, I have my kids that were... Now, everybody gets the coding exposure in the tutorials, so to speak, but as they go into projects, I think one of the most important things in STEM is that we give kids real world experiences.

               So, the reality is if your strength is graphics and design, or the user experience creation, your real life experience is going to be being a part of a collaborative team where you play your strengths. Very rarely do we ask kids, "Okay, we're going to have six of y'all just code this program together." We're not going to get very far, because usually your programmers tend to be more, at least in my experience with my students, more of your analytical thinkers. So, I need to pair them with students who again, they understand the structure of HTML and they understand the possibility, so to speak, of what HTML can create, but then they're using their creative brain to then flesh that out.

               Or actually, it's kind of reverse. Kind of give an idea of what they want, they pass those to their group members that are stronger coders. And again, we get more of a real life number one, experience, but also the product. Because again, Google's not hiring coders to be their creative designers, so to speak. But both are equal parts in the final product. So I think, kind of a mix of all three. More of a a graduated, or I'm sorry, differentiated experience based on student interest. Give everybody the general base knowledge. So again, if we're talking about a unit of HTML, everybody understands the syntax, how you have to write it, the indentations, all the particulars. But then in showing what they've learned, now each kid takes a different role in that project. Still getting computational thought practice, still learning the skills, the abstraction, the decomposition, the ways that we want kids to start problem solving. But in an area where number one, they'll feel success, and number two, their true strengths and interests will come to light, so to speak.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

I got you, okay. So, I love all the things that you just said, because it really got me thinking. Because sometimes we do the partner, let's do project based learning, let's group folks in three or four groups of... But I like how you said well, I can't just randomly assign kids as partners. I need to be more intentional. Okay, this person's really good in this area, and this person's really good in that area, and how do I team them up so that they can be successful? And I think there's a lot of value in that, and teaching kids those things early.

               Because yeah, a lot of us are going to end up working on teams, no matter what our positions are, but that's just the reality of the job market. So, I love how you said that... I'm really curious about this HBCU website project. I want to dig a little bit more, because I know there's going to be some folks, some teachers out there that are like, "Oh yeah, what's that?" And they're probably interested in this as well. So, can you break that down for me a little bit more? How many kids are in each group, and tell me a little bit more about that project.

Coach Victor Hicks:

Okay. I've actually done it in the virtual space, and now I've done it at my... Well, I'm actually currently doing it in two schools in person, here in Atlanta. And one of the things I remember, to give you the background why HBCUs are so important in my instruction, is that again, I know that the educator that I am definitely came from my experiences at Fisk University and Clark Atlanta. So, that was such an empowering moment for me, coming from a majority Caucasian, Catholic high school in Chicago. I had a lot of the academic strengths, but not a lot of the... I don't know, I guess kind of the personality. It was so moving to be on a campus that everyone by definition, was there for your success.

               And again, I had professors from all backgrounds, but knowing that they signed up to be at an HBCU. And then like I said, comparing my experiences with some of my friends, realizing that so many of them went above and beyond just because. That's always been something that's been very important to me, to expose the future generation to. The unit itself, so the kids, to give a synopsis, step into design teams. So I'm huge on solving a big real world situation. So, we do a little bit of fanfare where they're brought in, there's a video, and it's like, "Hey, you guys have been brought in as a special task force." I think this year we used Kamala Harris as an obvious connect, as an HBCU grad. "You've been called in by her staff to open up more HBCUs. We love the fact there's only 103, but we need to increase these because it's positively impacting Black students."

               So, it's actually a double benefit. So number one, we're exposing many students to this idea of these type of supportive environments for the first time. Then they go through an entire design process, so we talk about the pillars, or what are the important values about HBCUs? So if you had to design your own, what would be... And how we get the kids to do that, in the first step, they have to come up with their motto. We explore research, different HBCUs, why they chose the models they choose. Then they go about choosing a notable African American. Now, most recently I narrowed it down for them and said, "I want you guys to find a notable African American in STEM." And so, we talk about why those people are important, what type of values their school would stand for, and they choose a namesake from there.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

[crosstalk 00:18:29] I'm sorry. So, are you assigning one student in the group to... Because I know you said that you're intentional as far as how you pair everybody up.

Coach Victor Hicks:

Right. That part, they do as a project team. So after they create their initial, the name of the HBCU, they go through the location, the basic, laying the foundation. Now, once they go into their design projects, I name the different positions after STEM careers. So for example, for the HTML project where they had to design, code... Excuse me, program a website, there is a web designer. I actually have a programmer who's in charge of physically typing out HTML. There's a project manager that makes sure that the group is making progress, we're setting goals.

               And again, there's several checkpoints that they have to make sure that they're understanding their role, and also carrying it out to fidelity. Because of course, sometimes it's very easy for kids to drift, but I also know that by the more... The roles, again, I give the kids the opportunity to apply, so to speak, for the role where they think they would be the strongest. Because I think, now if they struggle there, of course I do offer my suggestions. Or if it's just like, "You really want to be..." You know? But too what I found, there's been a couple kids have chosen a job or position in the group that I thought they would not, I'm kind of like, "Are we a hundred percent sure?" But sometimes giving them that ability to challenge themselves. I've seen kids that I would have definitely thought would be more of my project managers, or be more interested in the graphic design, who want to challenge themselves and step into the role of programmer, and surprise themselves and me.

               So, it's a little bit of me assigning, again, if I think it's a total mismatch or I feel like a kid is in a group where they're not going to be able to stay focused, then I step in. But I also think students being able to reflect on their own skills, and then making moves and decisions accordingly is important too. Because again, unfortunately Coach Hicks will not be there with them as they go into these fantastic jobs at Google and Microsoft. But I do want my students also, when we talk about the bigger picture and the life skills, being able to realistically reflect on their strong points, and then market themselves accordingly. So, I think that self advocacy is an important takeaway for it too. So, it's a mix.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

Okay, okay. So initially you talk about what HBCUs are, and have them establish their location, established the name, the motto I think is what I heard you say as well. And they do that as a group. And then from there, do you approve, "Okay, here's your concept? Okay, that looks good. Okay, now you're assigned this, and you're assigned that." Is that what I heard?

Coach Victor Hicks:

Yeah. It goes through, almost I guess week to week, sometimes the projects are two weeks. There's a series of these mini projects, and depending on what they may be, the kids are constantly rotating through the different roles. So to give an example of the scope and sequence, that first portion is usually the first day. We really look at a lot of videos, virtual tours of HBCUs, they split into their teams. And then after the first couple of days, they're responsible for their initial pitch. So, Coach Hicks now becomes the... And I always get myself some title, to make it real life.

               And then they present their original idea. "We're going to open up Angela Davis University in California," I think was one of my groups, because California doesn't have any HBCUs. So they have to go through, defend their decision. And then each day from then on, becomes the mini projects. And so, the kids are constantly rotating roles. So for example, if we do a project in Scratch, a kid that is more of a novice programmer may feel more comfortable with a block-based program, but again, they're getting exposure to that field. Now, when we go into writing their own school song in EarSketch, then as we move into the Python code, one of their team members may be stronger in that area. And so, then that student that might have, they either switch roles, but it's a constant transition.

               And again looking back, one of the important steps after each mini project is they do a group assessment. So, how did I do in this role of programmer? What were some of my strengths that I didn't realize that I had? And then as I move forward, and as we look at the next part of the project, they then go back into that collaborative space and say, "Okay, let's compare notes." And the thing that I found there is that I see such maturity of my students, because at first everybody wants the cool job. Working in Scratch, everybody wants to program. But as I hold them, as they start to hit these deadlines, and again, we keep it very real world as possible.

               So, it's not like the kids are filling out a graphic organizer and there's a constant grade. They have their check-ins with me, they schedule those on their Google Calendar during our class time. And then we... Similar to I'm sure, the deadlines you're used to working with publishing different things. And that's really what their experience is. And after about the first two rotations, they're fully within their rights as a group, to start going and figuring out what's the best way to get to this end goal? So, it's guided towards the beginning, but it's definitely gradual release. Because like I said, the important skill is that they can see their strengths, and also be able to advocate for themselves accordingly.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

I love this, this is good stuff. And the thing about... All I can, when you think about the demographics, especially the group of students that you're serving, I see how this is so relatable to kids. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an HBCU as well, and you just shared how your experience of coming from Chicago, being in a space where it's predominantly white as far as your peers, and then coming to an HBCU, and the experience that you had. And I think just the fact that this is exposing a lot of our Black kids to what HBCUs are, and they're doing their own research and they're putting all this together and working together, I think that makes so much of an impact. I'm curious, now when they create their website, the HBCU website, let's just call it Dr. Sheldon Eakins University out of Pocatello, Idaho.

Coach Victor Hicks:

There we go.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

Let's say that's the name of the school. How many pages are, do you require them to do at least four pages? It just like a homepage only? Tell us more, a little bit about what the website is compiled of.

Coach Victor Hicks:

Okay, so there's two different ones, actually. So the project itself, what they end up submitting as their deliverable is a more... Let me back up a little bit. That one is not their coded website. So, they create a Google site that is their portfolio. So all of the different, the virtual tour in Scratch, the HBCU themed video game, all of those things are linked into their student portfolio. The HTML website is more a prototype of what, if they were to step into the realm of becoming a web designer for a college. I generally only require as a base, the initial homepage. So we learn about hex codes, we learn about syntax and what text is bolded and why, what does that related programming look like?

               But I do differentiate that a bit. So my stronger kids, I generally make that one a timeframe, any of the programming based, so that kids that possess the more basic skills can still get a product done. But it also allows room for kids to grow. So, their actual HTML website just needs to show me that they get the basic concepts. They know how to format a paragraph, style text in their website versus a heading. But the bigger project, so they really end up like I said, creating two. So, one is more of where they store all of these different projects as they are building them.

               But then the HTML, the actual practice of that programming language comes in a... I will say some of them, because again it's open door. So your group, or you choose a programmer. So again, going back to those, being able to allow your skills to shine in a different... Depending on what the skillset may be. Those kids, I've had groups that have gone from one homepage, to other kids that have gone further and linked pages, and uploaded media. So it varies, it really allows, I will say out of all of the mini projects, that's one of the ones where I see the most creativity. Because a lot... Go ahead.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

I was going to say, okay, so from your experience doing this, and I love how this project unfolds. What would you say based off of your experience, are some of the benefits, besides exposure to HBCUs? What other things would you say the kids really took from this experience?

Coach Victor Hicks:

I think one, it's a very realistic path, which is one of the necessary foundations for closing the digital divide. I think we've done a great job in the past few years, where Hour of Code has been a big initiative. We have a lot of companies that are beginning to put money into computer science to close the digital divide for people of color, but what are we doing to present that trajectory from kindergarten through 12? So, we say we're looking at a community that traditionally does not go into this field, or these fields. I think we have to be intentional, number one, to not only show people who look like them, who have done it, but also to say this is a path where this can happen.

               So, we're asking you to jump into this abyss with a lot of people that don't look like you. Which again, can be daunting to anyone, even us as adults. But I think when you say, hey, there are places where ironically enough with these kids, that Apple and Microsoft, they're putting so much money into 21st century careers at HBCUs. I think the missing link is getting that kindergartner to understand, we get you to fifth grade, then there's a viable, sustainable program in middle school, high school. But there are places where there are teachers, there are advisors, there are... And I tell everybody, I say, pretty much everyone at the HBCU would not subscribe to be there if they were not interested in that population succeeding.

               So, if you're going to take this leap of faith, if you're going to be in need, which we know they are, of portraits or examples of success, why not? I'm team HBCU for everything. But I think especially when we talk about a field where number one, in order for our kids to compete, they have to possess this skill. And again, not just coding, bigger picture computational thought. That is what we're expecting in the workplace across so many fields. But also in saying that, because again you may not have a mother, brother, sister to lean back on and say, this person was a computer scientist. But there are institutions that are now being inundated with all of these funds, and all of these grants, and all of these fantastic facilities. But we have to start connecting the dots from kindergarten, and almost drawing direct trajectories into our schools.

               Because what I find so much, and again no shade to any PWIs, but I have Black students who will rattle off Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, MIT. And I'm like, and again if those schools are their path, of course that's nothing to shake a stick at. But there are also places where people will intentionally pour into you. If Google's looking for the best Black computer scientists, nine times out of 10, and again not saying a Black kid wouldn't get hired from Georgia Tech. But if they go to Howard, we know, pretty much what you're looking for. So I just, I think when you look at a field like computer science or technology, where so much support is often needed, let's start gearing our students toward those schools. And that project does just that.

               So, they're seeing as they're going through, the way that they figure out how an HBCU is named, is that they're actually digging up and researching HBCUs, and who they're named after as they go through their model. So, just the exposure to the material, in addition to the creative thought they have to go through. It just really makes it a cool experience. And I think for students of non-color, the biggest benefit or that I've seen is that it allows those students, our black students in those diverse spaces, to be celebrated with their seat at the table. Our children walk into classrooms with flags from every majority institution you can imagine. From both their teachers of color, and teachers that are white as well. But it's helpful to be that student, even if you're not at a quote unquote, Black school. To say okay, yeah, there's all of these schools where our people have achieved excellent things. Where it's not an anomaly for a Black man to wear a suit, or to be the SGA president, because these are how these institutions are designed.

               And then too, I've had several Caucasian students where the family environment, just thinking about the pedagogy of how, or what... Excuse me, back that up a little bit, how they succeeded in my classroom. I know some of those same qualities are present at HBCUs. So I know that I have students that may not be Black, and I've had them, who have gone onto HBCUs, and gotten that same type of attention and care that they were used to in my classroom and other teachers, where they were most successful. So I think exposure to HBCU culture is a win-win all the way around.

               Does it impact our kids the most? Absolutely, which of course I love. But I think it's important that Black kids in those diverse spaces, also see their white counterparts learning about their culture as a part of the curriculum. Not just as a standalone in February, because intentionally I very rarely do this unit in those diverse spaces in February. Because I don't want it to just be, oh, we're learning about these cool places, and then we close the book in March. It pops in different times throughout. So just again, as quickly as a teacher would talk about University of Arkansas, Alabama, Coach Hicks is going to give you that same exposure, but just to these institutions. Which I think is important for all kids to learn.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

One of the things that you said that I thought was really powerful, because I've had this debate a lot with a lot of other Black educators. And the question is, okay, my actual child gets a full ride scholarship, and maybe we have several options. Is it better for us to encourage our children to attend that full ride at an Ivy League school? Or do we take a full ride scholarship at an HBCU? My argument has always been, I would rather send my children to a historically Black college or university, because I know that your Googles, your Microsofts, those big tech companies are looking for Black students. They're starting to be more intentional. And I wouldn't want my children to get lost in the mix of other Ivy League schools, or other areas that are predominantly white institutions, and not have those same opportunities.

               And then I also think about their actual experience on campus. And so, it's not just the academics. So you learn, yeah, you take classes, but the overarching social aspects of being on a college campus to me is so important. And as a parent, as an educator who has two kids that are growing up in Idaho, I want them to learn a lot more about their culture, who they are,, where they come from. And I know that they may not get that type of experience... Well, actually I know they won't get that type of experience if they attend one of the local schools out here. So, I'm really glad that you mentioned that.

Coach Victor Hicks:

Absolutely, yeah. It's definitely, you hit the nail on the head. I think the education is really just a fraction of the puzzle. Because again, as we talked about transferable skills. Google's not going to come and ask what you did on your math test, in calculus, in high school, college, whatever you may have taken it. And I think one of the major benefits for HBCUs for our kids, is giving them, building up that confidence. You know what I'm saying? Again, knowing just the... And it's hard sometimes to even put it into tangible words, but just knowing that everybody is moving, so people are grooming you for the interviews to go in and get that, they're building up that self confidence.

               I walked out of Clark Atlanta feeling like the sun didn't shine any place else. But that gave me that confidence as a 21 year old Black man, to go into the workspace and say, "Hey, I'm worth it." You know what I'm saying? These are my skills, I'm not afraid to advocate. Because I have professors, even my white professors, because they're not signing up to teach at Clark Atlanta, unless they were interested in seeing, whether it be equity, or just believing the fact that these kids needed this, knowing the world that we live in, needed this push. So, it was all of those. Did we get a stellar education? Absolutely. But it was the side... My professors taught me how to tie a bow tie, because they knew if that was my style, you need to know how to make sure, this is what you do.

               I had professors and advisors, from all different, of all the divine nine organizations, who realized that because you are a Black man going into education, not only do I teach you what you need to learn and methods of middle grades education, but also teaching how to go in and talk at an interview. And you know, and like I said, can you find that at a PWI? Yes. But my thing is that it is a very expensive investment, for what if? And that has always been my reasoning behind pushing Black children to HBCUs. Because again, number one, oftentimes they have gotten there financially, by the skin of their teeth. So, why would you play with that opportunity? Why would we spend a hundred thousand dollars to send our kids into a department, where they may or may not find a professor that sees it worth the extra investment to teach them outside of that classroom space?

               When I started to get ready, and started looking for student teaching opportunities, my professors invited me over for dinner. Because they knew it was, yes, what you needed to know in the classroom, but also let me build up your confidence. These are the things that when you go and you teach Black children, do not operate... I think that was one of the most powerful pieces that I heard again from my HBCU education professor, is, "We don't teach Black children from a deficit." When you go into these spaces and you don't expect the same excellence, now you might tweak it a little bit, but do I think a professor at a PWI would have taught the same thing? Then we go back to that probability. Maybe. But the amount of debt that I went into, it is definitely on the flip side of it, much more I guess, worth it. To know that no matter which professors I got, no matter which path I chose, that same expectation of excellence, but also the sustainability of the support.

               So, it wasn't just a professor saying, "Hey, you need to be excellent." It was, "Okay, I see you. I know that you might need this, this and this." And I was a hot mess at 19, so I needed those professors to say, "Okay, we see this talent, but I'm going to keep my foot on your neck, because I know that you have this potential." And I think that in the world that we're living in right now, our children are experiencing a lot of trauma. Not even just what we normally think of when we think of the poverty, which is, yes, very important and something we must look at. But our kids in the average American space are dealing with so many microaggressions, and so many other things.

               It's like if they could go and be at peace in one of the most important times of their lives, when they're getting all the necessary life skills, then why not? Why would we not push our kids finally, to get some place where they're not having to always wonder? And it's things coming to them from all sides. It's four years, it's a very important four years, and those schools are there. If it fits and the money is there, I agree with you a hundred percent. My nieces and nephews already know the expectations.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

Yeah. I'll tell you, and here's the thing. I'm just thinking, man, this is exposing kids to colleges and careers, and exposing them to different opportunities that are out there for you. And I love how we're honing in on it's not just the academic experience, but it's also the social experience as well. You can easily find fraternities, sororities, clubs, the culture, the music, the language, all of that there. And that I think all of that will help develop those skills, to operate outside of that college campus, and outside into our workforce. So Coach, I definitely consider you as providing a voice in leading equity. I'd love for you to share any final thoughts that you may have.

Coach Victor Hicks:

I just think, again, the most important takeaway I would say from today is really just again, getting those kids, or getting our children, our Black children exposed to computational thought. I do want us to start being more intentional about using that vocab with students. Because again, it's just looking at my own glows and grows, I came in coding crazy. That was going to be, I attended the PDs that were like, coding is the way of the future. And I didn't realize how tone deaf almost to a certain extent, that was to so many of my kids. So, I really want educators to not feel tied in by a lot of the boxed curriculums of coding. But don't be afraid to incorporate it in your classroom as much or as little, I think, as appropriate.

               Because again, of course we know our core subject teachers are being pulled in so many different directions. But again, if you think larger picture, if you think again, that computational thought, and ways that you can incorporate that definitely into the project based learning space in all core content areas, then you'll really get those kids, they're still incorporating, they're still practicing, they're still learning those takeaways that will make them marketable in 21st century college and career. So I think, just don't... If I could leave any word of advice, I would say don't get caught in the box. As a teacher, we ask our students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers, in our computer science classrooms. And I think we have to be willing to do the same as educators. And then that's when I think our kids will get, our students period, will get the maximum benefit of exposure to STEM, computer science, computational thought, depending on which realm it falls under.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

Nice. Victor, if we got some folks that want to connect with you, if they want to learn more about your project, your HBCU website projects, and maybe even some other project curriculum that you might be able to share, what's the best way to connect with you online?

Coach Victor Hicks:

Well, I am very, I think maybe it's my time in Atlanta. I'm a huge believer in Southern hospitality. So I encourage, reach out via email [email protected] That's also all of my socials. Our website is actually being revamped as we speak, so we finally got our domain, so Coding with Culture. It originally was coachhicks.com, but Coding with Culture should be up and running on the net. And that is where you can find some lesson examples. I'll have some video clips from the project actually being taught, but then we also offer the K through eight actual, the classes. So my virtual kids, and again, the wonderful thing about the world of Zoom that we've learned, is kids all over. So parents, or teachers that are parents, or aunts or uncles that want their kindergartner through eighth grader to have that experience, they can also join our virtual classes as well. Many different ways to tap into the HBCU ready computer science movement, which we like to call it.

Dr. Sheldon L Eakins:

Loving it, loving it, loving it. I will definitely leave links in the show notes, so folks can connect with you and take a gander, if you will, of what you have to offer. It sounds like you're doing some amazing work out there in Georgia. So keep up what you're doing, and it's always a pleasure. Thank you so much, Victor.

Coach Victor Hicks:

All right, Sheldon. I appreciate you.


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