2020. 2021

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This is my recap post of 2020, and my personal mission for 2021.

In early 2020, I wrote down some thoughts that I had about what I wanted to do over the year. I called it my "Personal Mission Statement" of 2020.

Since then, the world literally turned upside down. A lot of things happened. To name a few:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, killing nearly 2 million people globally, and halting my goals for 2020;
  • The brutal murder of George Floyd sparked hundreds of Black Lives Matter protests, creating the largest social movement in the country's history;
  • The world's tragic loss of inspiring individuals like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kobe Bryant, Katherine Johnson, Alex Trebek, and more.

My 2020 wasn't as eventful. There were a few pleasant surprises, but it was decently close to what I had in mind after all.

  • I graduated high school and started college at Berkeley... virtually (and wrote a brief conclusion about my education experience so far);
  • Execute Big became its own entity, taking our first step for more growth and autonomy (my journal), while saying goodbye to Hack Club, an organization that I contributed to for 3 years, and has had a tremendous impact on me;
  • Continued to work with CodeDay to create one of the best and most diverse online internship programs;
  • Joined inteGIRLS, learning to code better while writing tech for a group of passionate students who truly cares about helping girls pursue careers in STEM.

Less than a year ago, when I wrote down the words "the lack of opportunities like hackathons and basic CS education is no longer a 'universal' problem", I was on the flight back home from an in-person hackathon that Execute Big facilitated in Ohio. Little do I know that only a few weeks after these events happened, the entire year of 2020 would be practically canceled.

All of a sudden, getting back to running in-person events seemed distant and infeasible.

But the problem didn't change. When researching for CodeDay's summer programs, we found out that tech companies canceled an estimated 76% of student-facing internships in just a month of time (March – April 2020), and that, like most other social issues, have been disproportionally hurting students who are traditionally underrepresented more. Even when internship programs moved online, a vast majority of those most in need of an opportunity like this – namely, colored women in tech, as reported by Fast Company and Cornell/CUNY's BTT – would not be able to participate, due to a high percentage of people in such populations not being able to provide a stable internet connection or a comfortable working environment at home, as well as other family responsibilities that might interfere with their capacity to work.

This is not a single-sided problem on the students: researchers from Swansea University in the U.K. quoted that "teaching programming techniques and complex concepts of computer science online is difficult", and also shared concerns that as the world moves towards online education, education, especially when it comes to computer science, may see an increase in adaptations of a "one-size-fits-all" approaches across nations and institutions.

I know from everything that I have been seeing when facilitating programs and talking with students, teachers, and principals that the pandemic absolutely did not just flatten the playing field for CS education accessibility. It has simply made things far worse.

So my goal this year remains simple – to continue to be focused on the personal mission of creating opportunities for those who deserve them but lack access. This is not a simple problem that can be solved in a year, but something that requires attempts from different initiatives and levels of the construct over a long period of time.

There's still much to learn, and there's still much to do.

Special thanks to Julie Steele for reading the draft.

Permalink: https://mingjie.dev/blog/2021/