For HYPE founder and recent finalist for the Women in Tech’s Woman of the Year in STEAM Education award Kristina Newton, it’s personal.
“Despite all my potential and capabilities I had in the tech workforce, I felt alone. I didn’t see myself represented in leadership anywhere,” said Newton. “But my experiences as a Black woman in tech and the corporate workforce weren’t unique.”
With only 3 percent of computing-related jobs held by Black women, Newton experienced firsthand the challenges that so many minority women continue to face. “There really is not a reason why I shouldn’t be an executive or like a senior leader in a tech company today,” said Newton as she reflected on her trajectory through middle school, high school, college, and even into her seven-year career in technology.
Due to that lack of opportunity and representation, Newton left her role as consultant for Accenture in 2013 to find her place of belonging, which led to her launching HYPE in 2017.
HYPE, which stands for Hope for Youth through Providing Education, empowers girls of color for careers in tech by providing computer science education, significant leadership and learning experiences and technology career exposure.
“I began to understand and learn more about other women’s stories in technology and the reasons why girls are not choosing tech career path,” said Newton. “I wanted to intentionally address those barriers that young black and brown girls face.”
And Newton knows all about creating opportunity in STEM education. She created her own computer engineering program during her time as an undergraduate student and was the first to graduate with that degree from her university in 2006.
She also recognizes the need for essential life skill development, where HYPE also prepares students for interviews and resume writing while providing a safe space to talk about these challenges and establish confidence – Skills that Newton has continued to refine herself through programs like the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) and Center for Civic Innovation (CCI).
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the program to go virtual for 2020 and into 2021, it has only allowed HYPE to expand their reach beyond Georgia and into new schools in states like Texas, Alabama and Florida.
As a result of her work, major corporates and foundations are recognizing the need for more inclusive STEM training, especially as a pipeline of diverse talent into their organizations.
“They understand the impact that they can have on a young person’s life during their formative years that carries forever,” said Newton.
To date, HYPE has received over $135,000 in grants from organizations like The Blank Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, Microsoft and MailChimp. It has also secured partnerships with companies like State Farm, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Georgia Power and BlackRock.
With Georgia recently passing legislation that all high schools will have to offer computer science by 2020, Newton recognizes that the majority of the low-income schools don’t have the curriculum or support to effectively offer such needed STEM training.
“You can’t have a one size fits all approach. You really have to understand the barriers, the obstacles, and the landscape of the communities that you serve.”
Now entering another semester of tech training, HYPE is in the process of developing its own learning management system designed specifically to better serve the next generation of BIPOC female STEM leaders.
HYPE is currently accepting applications for its Leadership Academy until September 10, 2021. This 10-week program is designed to equip high school students with workforce ready skills for 21st century opportunities. Register today! https://gethype.org/programs/#leadership-academy
Author: Lexie Newhouse