I met Trevor (name has been changed) when he was a high school senior in 2014. From a coal mining family in western Kentucky, he’d just suffered a major family crisis and his mother was struggling with mental illness. Understandably, his grades were beginning to suffer and he was missing class regularly.
At the time, I was the homeless education program manager for Paducah Independent School District in Paducah, Kentucky. Trevor’s teacher pulled me aside, concerned and frustrated. She filled me in on the particulars. He was struggling scholastically, experiencing a difficult situation at home, and was at risk of falling between the cracks at the worst possible time: just on the verge of adulthood.
But then his teacher added, “He’s is always tinkering with the computers in our classroom.”
Coincidentally, as part of another role I had with the district to develop relationships with the business community, I was organizing a field trip to a tech company. At the time, I was in the process of developing a program called “The Tech Pipeline” that allowed local, fast-growing technology companies to connect with prospective talent in the community through our schools. These companies were eager for qualified young candidates to fill positions. Though somewhat ironically, the local unemployment rate was soaring and kids were abandoning the region in search of work.
Clearly, there was a disconnect.
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