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CS4RI Summit Connects 2,000 Students to IT Career Pathways

Industry Leaders and IBM Executive Showcase STEM Possibilities for Computer Science Students

Students and participants at the CS4RI Summit

KINGSTON, R.I. – Approximately 2,000 middle and high school students filled the University of Rhode Island Ryan Center today for the third annual Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) Summit. The event featured student presentations from middle school, high school, and college-level classes, as well as more than 100 exhibits and interactive activities provided by leading businesses in cybersecurity, computer science, and other STEAM-related industries.

The Summit is an opportunity for students to connect what they are learning in school to the possibilities that await them in college and the workforce.

“By 2020, Rhode Island will have as many as 2,500 jobs open in computer science, and I want our students to be able to compete for those jobs,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo, who launched CS4RI in May 2016 and has made Rhode Island a leading state for computer science. “In order to continue to grow this critical industry sector, we need a strong talent pipeline, and the students being exposed to STEAM fields through the CS4RI initiative today are that pipeline. We’ve seen incredible growth over the past two years, but we’re just getting started.”

Since the launch of CS4RI, Rhode Island has successfully incorporated computer science in every school in the state, and the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses in computer science has increased from just 26 to 235. Ongoing efforts are aimed at scaling up opportunities to provide cohesive computer science pathways for all students in grades K-12 that meet the new Rhode Island Computer Science Standards. A significant part of this effort has been focused on supporting educators, and more than 800 educators to date have been provided with training and professional learning. Last year, the Governor additionally set her sights on postsecondary opportunities, setting a goal to double the number of computer science degree graduates in Rhode Island by 2025.

At the Summit, the CS4RI Student Award was presented to Yean Torres-Mitchell, a student at 360 High School in Providence. Joining the awards presentation were Barbara Cottam, Fred Chanfrau, and Brian O’Connell from Citizens Bank, the key CS4RI Summit sponsor and a continued supporter of computer science programs in Rhode Island.

“From both of my roles – at Citizens Bank and at the Board of Education – I recognize the tremendous importance of exposing students to computer science,” said Barbara S. Cottam, RI Market Executive at Citizens Bank and Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education. “A foundation that includes computer science will lead to high-wage, high-growth jobs across every sector. The more that we can connect them with this pathway early on, and the more opportunities we provide for challenging, hands-on coursework, the better prepared they will be for the future workforce.”

In addition to remarks from URI President Dr. David Dooley and Chair Cottam, Hemang Dave, Chief Innovation Officer of Global Technology Services for IBM North America, provided the keynote address.

"Innovation and inventions are crucial for humanity's long term survival. Computer Science, in the last 50 years, has created unparalleled contributions than any other field in human history,” said Hemang Dave, who spoke to the students about innovation over the years at his company and worldwide.

“The message we want to send to Rhode Island students is that if you have the passion, we have a pathway. We know that the passion for computer science and technology exists for many of our kids, and CS4RI is the mechanism through which we provide the pathway,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We continue to expand career education programs and advanced coursework opportunities – especially in computer science and STEAM fields – because we know that when learning is relevant and engaging, students thrive.”

The CS4RI initiative falls under the umbrella of Prepare Rhode Island (PrepareRI), a statewide initiative aligned to industry to prepare all Rhode Island youth with the skills they need for high-wage, high-growth careers. This comprehensive statewide strategy also includes dual and concurrent enrollment early college opportunities, career and technical education, Advanced Placement, and the Advanced Course Network, among others. For more information on current CS4RI offerings and how to get involved, visit www.CS4RI.org.