Leaders of the Silicon Slopes community have partnered with the Community Foundation of Utah to launch a Field of Interest Fund dedicated to advancing K-12 computer science education in Utah. The first of its kind in the nation, the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund is launched with initial contributions and pledges of $4 million from Aaron Skonnard, co-founder and CEO of Pluralsight, and his wife Monica; Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics, and his wife Ashley; Josh James, founder and CEO of Domo, and his wife Marina; and Dave Elkington, Founder and Chairman of InsideSales.com, and his wife Alese. Each couple have contributed or pledged $1 million to the fund.
Just over half of Utah public high schools presently teach computer science and in 2019 only 567 AP Computer Science exams were taken of the more than 42,000 AP exams taken statewide. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has set the goal of providing every K-12 student in Utah the opportunity to learn computer science by 2022, and various public and private stakeholders have collaborated on efforts to achieve that goal through the development of a comprehensive four-year state master plan that was approved by the board of Talent Ready Utah. The Community Foundation of Utah’s Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund is designed to target needs, goals, and strategies outlined in the Utah Computer Science Education Master Plan, with an emphasis on investments that are replicable, innovative, and scalable.
“Thanks to Governor Herbert’s leadership and the great partnership between government, the Utah State Board of Education, and private and public stakeholders, we have strong momentum driving us toward our goal to ensure every K-12 student in Utah has the chance to learn computer science by 2022,” said Skonnard. “To put our foot on the gas to reach this goal, we need an active and engaged community, and the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund is a critical step to ensuring that all community members are empowered to be part of the solution. I’m proud to work with Ryan, Josh, and the rest of Silicon Slopes to support this important initiative, and call on my fellow Utahns to join in the effort to create a better future for our youth by expanding equitable access to high-quality computer science education.”
The formation of the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund establishes a vehicle to strategically deploy the $3 million and provides an opportunity for individuals, foundations, and organizations that are dedicated to affecting change in computer science outcomes across Utah to contribute. Creating the opportunity for all K-12 students in Utah to learn computer science is a multigenerational issue and the creation of the fund provides a vehicle for ongoing private sector and community funding to wrap around state funding.
“Technology is changing the future of work and it is essential that all students have access to computer science education to prepare for the careers of the future,” said former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Managing Partner at Emerson Collective and Pluralsight board member. “Utah is doing innovative work bringing together education leaders, advocacy, and industry to create a sustainable plan to provide equitable access to computer science education across all public K-12 schools. The Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund introduces an innovative way for funders of all types and sizes to come together around this critical issue and support a focused strategy that will impact the future of Utah’s students and teachers for years to come.”
Held and managed by the Community Foundation of Utah, a Field of Interest Fund is designed to grant to a specific issue or cause in a designated region and allows many donors to pool their contributions for a collective impact. This allows all donations, large or small, to make an impact in the community and contribute to evidence-based strategies and solutions. The creation of the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund establishes computer science as a priority for Utah, and with the Community Foundation of Utah’s management, the fund is dedicated to building a perpetual philanthropic funding stream to produce quantifiable, lasting K-12 computer science outcomes for educators and learners across the state.
“The launch of the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund is just the latest example of the great partnership that exists between public and private sectors,” said Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of Code.org. “Utah’s unified approach to expanding computer science education to reach all its students can serve as a template for other states to replicate.”
The following are examples of the types of initiatives and investments that the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund may support:
● Innovation grants to support classrooms, educators, and nonprofits driving outstanding computer science learning outcomes through replicable models
● Grants to enable teachers to receive computer science endorsements and teach computer science in their classrooms
● Grants focused on providing specialized programming and interventions designed to increase diversity in technology
“The skills learned from computer science education enable students to become creators of technology and innovations and position them for success in the 21st century,” said Sydnee Dickson, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “We are making a lot of progress at the state level to extend opportunities to learn computer science to every student in Utah, and with the support of the private sector and Utah’s citizens, we will have the wind at our back to reach that goal. This is a huge moment for Utah and we are grateful for the support of our community.”
Funding priorities and initial investments will be announced following the successful execution of the first stages of the Utah Computer Science Master Plan, including the HB 227 grant round managed by the Utah State Board of Education. The Silicon Slopes Computer Science does not accept unsolicited requests for support. For more information about the Community Foundation of Utah or to contribute to the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund, visit www.utahcf.org/csforutah.
About the Community Foundation of Utah
The Community Foundation of Utah is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit grantmaker and serves as Utah’s catalyst for philanthropy by fostering accessible, collaborative, and innovative giving in our communities, now and for generations to come. Since establishment in 2008, the organization has fostered nonpartisan community partnerships and has facilitated over $55 million in grants to Utah’s nonprofit sector. For more information, go to www.utahcf.org, call 801.559.3005, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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