Amazon donates $3.9 million to expand computer science education in Virginia


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Amazon is donating $3.9 million to expand computer science education and training for teachers and students in Virginia.

The money will be donated to CodeVA, a nonprofit that promotes computer science education throughout the commonwealth.

Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam made the announcement during a video visit with CodeRVA high school students in Richmond.

According to Pamela Northam, the donation will benefit 500,000 students and 12,000 teachers in more than 700 underserved schools across Virginia for the next three years.

“This means so much to our teachers right now. What an incredible opportunity. What a more poignant time to be thinking about the computer technology,” Pamela Northam told 10 On Your Side’s Kara Dixon.

The $3.9 million supplements Gov. Ralph Northam’s state grants to implement computer science standards throughout Virginia and doubles CodeVA’s annual operating budget through 2022, according to the Office of the Governor.

Pamela Northam, who is a former science teacher, was joined by Amazon’s VP of Worldwide Ops, Ardine Williams, along with the organization CodeVA, for the video call.

Funds will help CodeVA make virtual computer science curriculum and training available to tens of thousands of teachers and students, who are now relying on virtual learning.

Below: VA First Lady Pamela Northam speaks about finding hope and courage amid COVID-19 pandemic

“We have made great strides in recent years in igniting curiosity in STEM education and careers in an equitable way, and we won’t let this pandemic slow us down,” said Pamela Northam. “Amazon’s donation to CodeVA strengthens Virginia’s first-of-their-kind computer science standards and will help students develop these critical workforce skills while they learn from home and once they transition back to the classroom.”

Pamela Northam believes that Amazon donated the money to further digital education because of the strides the commonwealth has already made and giving teachers more access will continue to help educate future generations of Virginians.

“Giving them the tools they need is important. That’s where Amazon has stepped up to help us. They know the importance of the talent pipeline. That’s what makes us the ‘Digital Dominion’ today. I think they landed here because they knew that we said this curriculum is important. We wanted to start in kindergarten and go all the way through 12th grade and we’re the only state to do that. It’s important to give the teachers the resources they need so they can give to the students as well,” she said.

Pamela Northam hopes that more access to computer science training will allow more women and minorities to pursue careers in the technology field.

During her virtual visit to the CodeRVA students, she stressed how STEM education can make a difference in their lives.

“As I was talking to the kids earlier, I said they could be the first person to Mars. They can be the next Katherine Johnson. Who knows who’s out there who could solve our pandemic problems in the future,” she said. “So, really education is the cornerstone in making sure we have good evidence-based science to take us into the 21st century, not just for jobs, but for challenges like climate change and other things.”

According to CodeVA, nearly 200 teachers from Hampton Roads have already signed up to gain access to the resources. 50 of those teachers are already participating in a federal grant partnership between ODU and CodeVa.

Teachers who have applied are from Suffolk, Chesapeake, Norfolk, York, Hampton and Newport News, according to the governor’s office.

“We really want to support them. They really are superheroes. They’re also superheroes to me because I was a former teacher. But now, stepping into this new space, stepping into challenges, we want to make sure they have what they need,” she said.

To register or learn more about CodeVA, click here.

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