We were thrilled to learn that CSTA will be receiving a new $350,000 grant from Google, and a portion of those funds will support us as Alumni and next year’s cohort. We appreciate Google’s commitment to the CSTA Equity Fellowship since 2020.
Note: This piece was written collaboratively by Tonya Coats, Michelle-Noelle Magallanez, and Tory Wadlington. Point of view may shift throughout the piece.
The CSTA Equity Fellow Slack channel was abuzz with excitement weeks prior to their in-person convening. The opportunity for each of the fellowship cohorts to meet together to brainstorm and define projects that would positively impact K-12 computing for teachers and students was a gift we each cherished. Having the event hosted by Google in New York—everyone bubbled over in anticipation and gratitude. We were thrilled to learn that CSTA will be receiving a new $350,000 grant from Google, and a portion of those funds will support us as Alumni and next year’s cohort. We appreciate Google’s commitment to the CSTA Equity Fellowship since 2020.
Fellows from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico arrived by plane, train, automobile, and roller skates. For many fellows, this was our first experience of New York—a city with a breakneck pace, inclusive vibe, and outgoing attitude.
The Equity Fellows are a welcoming, warm-hearted, and boisterous group. On arrival, each fellow walked in to be greeted by about a dozen fellows. All sense of nervousness and discomfort washed away. It was like attending a family gathering, waiting to share hugs, epic stories of travel adventures, and excitement for our convening. If there is one thing to be said about being around the CSTA Equity Fellows, you feel genuine love and care from everyone there.
Bright and early on Friday morning, we gathered in the hotel lobby to begin the trek to our convening location— Google offices in the Chelsea neighborhood. With fellows ebbing and flowing in clusters down Ninth Avenue, we leisurely made our way to our destination to be greeted by Googlers welcoming us into their space.
Group by group, fellows were quickly and efficiently whisked up the building to begin our convening. This was the first time alum cohorts had attended a convening in person as a collective. With four cohorts congregated together, our Google hosts and CSTA Equity Fellow leads had their hands full trying to wrangle 40+ equity fellows who were passing out hugs and oh-ahs over the spectacular views over downtown Manhattan.
Once we settled into our main convening space, we launched into introductions of each cohort. The excitement over being together and knowing what we would accomplish over these two days was palpable. No one felt left behind. Everyone made an effort to learn more about fellows from diverse cohorts.
Before diving into our fellowship work, we were escorted on a tour. It was valuable for fellows who are mainly educators and district leaders to see how Google has intentionally designed workspaces to be open and collaborative. The floor was organized into pockets where Googlers could work comfortably independently or come together in a pod to brainstorm and problem-solve. From quiet nooks with comfy coaches to small office spaces with tables and whiteboards, the office space was thoughtfully designed to flex to Googlers’ needs.
Fellows could make the most of the space as we tucked into our project work on Friday, with the current fellow cohort breaking off into small groups to move our team projects forward and alum fellows brainstorming future project work. One of the most valuable aspects of the convening was the opportunity for face-to-face time to collaborate with our project teams and dig deeply into the work.
Friday passed in a blur as project teams returned to the main convening room. With their inspiration to launch us into our afternoon, we continued with project work, finalizing session plans for the CSTA Annual Conference in July. After a productive project day, we reconvened at the hotel to make our way to an evening of fellowship at SPIN—a ping-pong bar co-founded by Susan Sarandon in the Flatiron district. The competition was not in short supply, as fellows teamed up at the tables for laughter and a side of line dancing.
Reuniting with our cohort of Equity Fellows felt like coming home to family. Despite our physical distance, our connection felt as strong as ever. The meeting of the Alumni Equity Fellows was equally warm and welcoming. They embraced us newer members with open arms, making us feel instantly part of the community. Our agenda was filled with fellowship, conference planning, project planning, and engaging in Edcamp and sharing sessions. The guest speakers added depth to our discussions, especially, Girls Who Code CEO Dr. Tarika Barrett and Chief Program Officer Daniel Voloch, who shared updates on their work to engage girls in CS through afterschool programming, extending their reach to young adults with resources to help girls prepare for technical interviews. Fellows loved hearing about how Girls Who Code is breaking down barriers in tech and demystifying the hiring process to make entry into CS-related career opportunities more accessible. We also were joined by Christy Crawford, the Senior Director of Partnerships & Culturally Responsive Education from CSforALL/NYC Department. Her work and her passion were a clarion call for the fellows, planting a seed with the words of Ruha Benjamin:
“Remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within.”
With that call to action resonating in our hearts and activating our will, the tenor of the room glowed as we shared back to the whole group’s progress on project work. We even surprised ourselves by pulling off an end-of-day EdCamp! We brainstormed topics that ranged from AI in the Classroom to Black in CS, and were reminded that we are experts in our fields. By coming together and sharing our insights and experiences, we can multiply our impact to positively support teachers and students across the US and Puerto Rico. Tory Wadington shared, “I am so used to being the only Black educator in these spaces that I had to stop and take several pictures of all of these wonderful Black educators all working together. It was truly beautiful and much needed for me to push forward in my career.”
We had opportunities to immerse ourselves in the city’s rich cultural scene in the evenings. We chose to join different groups each night to better connect with the fellows. One night, we dived into Korean culture in Koreatown. On another night, we enjoyed a casual gathering filled with drinks, appetizers, and games of ping pong. The final night was capped off with a memorable visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This museum has a wealth of artifacts spanning across eras and civilizations. The Met is a testament to the diversity of human creativity. One of our fellows, an art connoisseur, added to the experience with her wealth of knowledge about the artwork. We also had a local New York fellow guide us to a hidden eatery later to top off the night.
How do you put a capstone on this experience? With a letter to a fellow. The letter to a fellow was an inspirational activity meant to ensure each fellow left the convening feeling seen and supported. We each began a letter to a fellow on Friday that was built upon three times during the course of the convening by other fellows. The final result—a letter we each received as we were leaving the Google offices—a special gift that was at once a memory of what we had accomplished and an inspiration for what is to come. “I opened my letter on my flight home. I’ll continue to return to it when I begin to feel isolated in our work, when I need words of encouragement, and when I need affirmation,” says Michelle-Noelle Magallanez.
Tonya Coats adds, “Reflecting on my time at the CSTA Equity Fellows Convening, I feel nothing but gratitude. I am thankful for the enriching experiences, the knowledge gained, and the bonds forged. It was a journey that left a lasting impression, professionally and personally. To everyone associated with organizing and planning this CSTA Equity Fellowship trip, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude. You have made this experience remarkable and unforgettable. I can’t wait to see how future and past fellows will continue to uphold and further the wonderful work we’ve initiated.”
Thank you so much, CSTA, for your support of the Equity Fellowship, bringing together educational leaders from across the country to help ensure each child has an opportunity to develop the skills they need for a future filled with possibilities from educators dedicated to equitable, inclusive teaching practices.
Fellow fellows—thank you. You are strong. You are insightful. You will change the world one child at a time.
We got this!