Former educator breaks the norms to start nonprofit focusing on kids and tech

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A former school superintendent turned techie has launched a nonprofit aimed at exposing children from lower socioeconomic status to technology.

Dr. Philip Hickman is the founder of Learn Techquity, a program that offers free to low cost training in STEM-based fields with a heavy emphasis on technology.

“We are running across a shortage of talent, and we wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem,” Hickman said.

He believes the current school structure isn’t always relevant to preparing young people for the future workforce.

“[Currently] the name of the game is to memorize, to regurgitate facts and to follow steps,” Hickman said. “The kids learn by doing. So really our old model of teaching is inappropriate for this generation.”

Learn Techquity takes a hands-on approach to learning and focuses on collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem solving.

“If we don’t teach them the basics of those skills and we’re just teaching facts, then we’re going to fail our generation of children to be prepared,” Hickman said.

On Thursday, when FOX4 visited students of the program at the Nutter Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center, they were learning coding and how to build a makeshift version of Amazon’s Alexa.

“Our children, through our program, will be to tackle any job in the future from biomedical, to computer science, engineering, to robotics, astronomical engineer, aeronautical engineer,” Hickman said.

He estimates they’ve introduced about 150 children, ages 8 to 18, to the world of coding and software since launching the organization a year ago.

“Our job is to expose children to things that they have never been exposed to, and sometimes will never have the privilege to be exposed to,” he said.

One of the students, currently attending a summer camp offered through the nonprofit, is 14-year-old Robert Morrow. The incoming ninth-grader wants to become a pilot.

“It’s fun,” Morrow said about the camp. “You get to learn how to do different things, and it teaches you how to do stuff. It’s kind of cool.”

Hickman said it’s gratifying to watch a young person start one of their programs and leave with skills that can make them successful in life.

“It’s great to see them grow with grit and perseverance and apply their knowledge and see that light bulb click off on their head when they do solve the problem,” he said.

Learn Techquity offers several camps and sessions throughout the year. The organization is always looking for support, whether it be through donations or working professionals lending their expertise. If that’s you, click here.

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