With 4-H, helping more students learn computer science

June 13th, 2019

As our CEO Sundar Pichai announced today in my home state of Oklahoma, we’re making our largest ever computer science education grant from to support 4-H, the largest youth development organization in the country. This $6 million grant—made as part of Grow with Google’s efforts to ensure that everyone has access to future opportunities—will help provide more than 1 million youth across the country with computer science skills, plus computer science training for their educators.

4-H is a second home for students like Decklan Thomas, a high schooler from Bruceton Mills, West Virginia (population 86). Following three generations in the trucking industry, Decklan was certain that he was on a path to becoming a diesel mechanic. The field was appealing not only because of family tradition, but also because it allowed him to do something he liked: identifying problems and fixing them.

One day, he learned about computer science through his local 4-H chapter. He didn’t even know he was coding at first—it just felt like solving a puzzle on the computer. As he began to do more coding, he quickly saw the parallels between the skills you need to be a mechanic and the computer science he was learning at 4-H. He says, “You see something wrong, then fix it—and end up with something amazing.” Decklan is still enthusiastic about becoming a diesel mechanic, but he’s now also exploring other opportunities like becoming a biomedical engineer or even going into the Navy.

I know the impact of these types of programs because I grew up going to my local 4-H chapter in Oklahoma. I loved learning about animal care, teamwork, and practical farm skills—a hallmark of 4-H. Like Decklan, those skills inspired me to learn how to fix things—I went to the Oklahoma State University and went on to work for Google here in Pryor. And I still fix things: the servers in our data centers that power our internet products for people across the country.

Decklan and I are representative of the many students across the United States who lack access to computer science learning opportunities. It’s estimated that computer science-related jobs are created at nearly four times the rate of other jobs, but students in small towns are less likely to have access to classes and clubs at school compared to suburban students, and their parents are less likely to know about CS opportunities outside of school.

Together with 4-H, we believe in the potential of technology–and youth—to change and improve our lives, industries and communities. Today’s grant will provide 4-H educators with the resources they need to ensure that students can access the skills they’ll need—both technical and non-technical—to create the technology that may improve our future.