San Antonio Middle School Students to Become Software Designers

By University Communications

Friday, 01 15 2021

IDRA & Texas A&M University–San Antonio Launch “VisionCoders” with $3.89M Federal Grant

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio middle school students who are in at-risk situations will become the next generation of software coders through an innovative project called VisionCoders, launched by IDRA and Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The project was kick-started by a $3.89 million, five-year Education, Innovation and Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We’re excited to partner with A&M San Antonio and San Antonio-area districts to prepare middle schoolers for careers that haven’t even been invented yet,” said IDRA President & CEO Celina Moreno. “These students ‘VisionCoders’ will become leaders on campus and in our future workforce.”

IDRA and A&M–San Antonio will partner on the design and implementation of an eighth-grade computer science course in which the VisionCoders will create educational games for Pre-K to first grade students. The project will impact over 1,400 students in 12 schools in the seven Bexar County school districts that comprise the ASPIRE network. A&M-San Antonio founded that network in 2019 to accelerate locally-driven innovation and improve academic achievement for high-need students.

“VisionCoders was created with a similar purpose of that of Texas A&M University-San Antonio; and that is to be at the forefront of a strategy to propel regional innovation while creating a pathway for South San Antonio and South Bexar County students to prepare for the future of science, technology, engineering and math careers,” said Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of A&M-San Antonio. “Skills such as critical thinking, math and computing will enable them to be successful in educational and employment aspirations in this highly competitive field.”

Key to the course are well-prepared and knowledgeable teachers, which is why VisionCoders integrates focused teacher training with a master’s level course through A&M-San Antonio’s College of Education and Human Development.

Participating school districts include East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, South Side, and Southwest ISDs. In the geographic area encompassing those districts, fewer than 1% of adults work in computer-related fields, compared to the national average of 7%.

Today’s fastest-growing careers are tech-driven, from healthcare to telecommunications to aerospace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing and projects that computer science research jobs alone will increase 19% by 2026

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For more information on VisionCoders, contact Dr. Stephanie Garcia, VisionCoders project director and IDRA’s STEM and gender equity education specialist at stephanie.garcia@idra.org.

A&M-San Antonio media contact: Chris Belcher, Senior Communications Manager, 210-784-2422 or cbelcher@tamusa.edu

IDRA media contact: Christie L. Goodman, APR, IDRA Director of Communications, christie.goodman@idra.org, 210-444-1710

Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent, non-profit organization, led by Celina Moreno, J.D. Our mission is to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by providing dynamic training; useful research, evaluation, and frameworks for action; timely policy analyses; and innovative materials and programs.

Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Established as a stand-alone university in 2009, Texas A&M University-San Antonio is a comprehensive four-year public university that reflects the culturally diverse, heritage-rich community it serves. Situated on nearly 700 acres in south San Antonio, A&M-San Antonio is a Military Embracing™ institution offering 30 undergraduate degrees and 14 graduate degrees to nearly 6,800 students. The University is home to the Henry G. Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders and the Cyber Engineering Technology/Cyber Security Research Center. A&M-San Antonio holds the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation. Military Times ranks the University No. 35 in the nation for “Best for Vets: Colleges.” Visit tamusa.edu for more information. #onamission

ASPIRE (A&M-SA & South Bexar County ISDs Partnership to Impact Regional Equity and Excellence

ASPIRE is a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between a public university and seven south Bexar County ISDs (East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, Southside and Southwest). The ASPIRE partnership focuses on developing educational programs and services to support existing programs to develop teachers with an affirmation for the community where they live, work and learn; curriculum development for a dynamically changing world; and accessible programs that offer specialized services for children with special needs across south Bexar County and south San Antonio. ASPIRE aims to:

  • Design customized solutions for the needs of each of the seven ISDs
  • Inspire innovation by developing the first-known public university and independent school district SB1882 lab schools in Texas.

ASPIRE priorities:

  • Creating opportunities for collective impact.
  • Filling teacher shortages in STEM areas.
  • Educating students and families on the benefits of a four-year degree.
  • Expanding accessible programs for specialized services for children with special needs across south Bexar County and south San Antonio.
  • Advancing the school-to-college pipeline.