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Latinitas is Diversifying Austin’s Tech Force

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Latinitas empowers young girls of color through media and technology to change their communities.

Sponsored Content, By Christine Bolanos, Photo by Josie Hughes

Latinitas

Sporting dark-purple T-shirts emblazoned with the Latinitas logo, young girls of color inter-viewed East Austin business owners about the impact of gentrification on their community. The area east of I-35 was once home to a vibrant community of mom-and-pop shops owned by Latinos and African Americans.

Skyrocketing rents and a swarm of trendy condos, boutiques and urban eateries have changed that dynamic, but a few remaining East Austin staples were brought to life in an innovative way with the use of new technology as part of Latinx Culture in East Austin. It’s a virtual-reality documentary that aims to preserve East Austin and highlight the impact of gentrification in the neighborhood.

Girls as young as 10 took full ownership of the project, including production and direction, and made such an impact in the Austin community, it is still a source of conversation one year later.

Thirteen-year-old Latinitas member Isabella Cruz never imagined she would help shape the direction of such an important endeavor.

“I’ve learned about how it changed the lives of many people who live in East Austin and their family-owned small businesses,” she says. “It’s really cool that I had an opportunity to learn about how to make a VR video and how to use a VR camera to film the whole process.It was a fun way to film the whole experience because the viewer gets to experience everything all around us in a real way.”

She is one of about 33,000 girls who completed groundbreaking projects in media, technology, culture and identity narratives as members of Latinitas during the course of 17 years.

The nonprofit empowers young girls of color through media and technology, and its strategic partnerships with companies and initiatives like Google Fiber equip it with the resources and tools needed to make this possible.

Like Latinitas, Google Fiber’s staff also champions fair access to all in the realms of information and technology. Beginning in 2018, Google Fiber staff helped Latinitas explore the use of web virtual reality for its after-school programs. They are supporting the fourth iteration of the Code Chica certification program, a new and free initiative that teaches high-school girls basic JavaScript fundamentals and higher-order functions for basic website building. Participants work with on-site instructors and guest speakers in STEM.

“Code Chica recognizes that women, and especially Latina women, are incredibly underrepresented in science and technology due to societal barriers, not necessarily a lack of interest or creativity,” says Daniel Ryne Lucio, government and community affairs manager at Google Fiber.

Partners like Austin Coding Academy have stepped up to ensure the program’s success.

“If we can help shape the mindsets of young children before they’re older and before they’ve been told by the system this isn’t for them, then we can equip them with the mentality that technology is a career option for them and that they have every right to work in tech, just like anybody else,” says Austin Coding Academy CEO Chris Lofton.

Latinitas member Daniela Lira appreciates the challenging learning environment she’s joined.

“It makes me really happy to know Latinitas exists,” Lira says, “because there’s not a whole lot of women or people of color in technology right now.”

Latinitas Code Chica certification is supported by Google Fiber. For more information, visit latinitasmagazine.org.


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