Name: Iyanna McCoy
From: New Castle, Delaware
School: William Penn High School
During my freshman year, I mentored children in robotics. These children
experienced the effects of poverty, seen the flaws within the system,
and shared a feeling of incompetence. When we first began, the
children were motivated to participate in order to obtain a hot meal
the school provided to after school programs. As the assembling
process grew tedious and programming became moderately difficult, not
even a hot meal could drag the children back. An immense amount of
time was not used to program and build but on improving one’s
I asked the students what was a major factor that invigorated the feeling helplessness and I was told that it was
due to watching their parents struggle to place food on the table,
giving them the mindset that no matter how hard you try, you will
never succeed. For, they remained trapped within the ghettos of
Kenosha, the bitter Wisconsin winters thawed once a year as the
summer sun was the only source of heat, and the grand “drug free
zone” sign that could not block the smell of weed drafting down the
halls or pill bottles opening, the sound resonating off the bathroom
stalls. It was like a game of tug of war, their peers wanted them to
fall into the poisonous lifestyle of poverty while their dreams and
aspirations wanted them to do great things. I started with 30
students but as the war intensified, I was left with ten.
The other volunteers and I began to panic for, if we did not have a
sufficient amount of students, we would have to stop the program.
Once again the efforts of the remanding students would go unseen
proving their theory. I easily related to the students thus my advice
was accepted. I was not just a mentor; I was a friend. We spoke
outside the realm of robotics but the conversation always found its
way back to big picture, passion. As the robots began to take shape,
so did the student’s character.
On competition day, we walked in the establishment bubbling with nerves and excitement.
Regrettably, we did not place due the other schools having advance
technology in comparison to ours. Disappointment was short as they
came to realize the obstacles they overcame. To celebrate, we went
out to eat pizza and spoke of the years to come and new methods of
constructing the robots.
To this day I wonder if the children continued to not only pursue robotics but the goals they established for themselves or lost in the game of tug of war. The children
impacted my life in a prodigious way. They ignited the want in me to
give others the push to do great things. I wish to start and assist
after school programs within middle schools that will not only
promote the field of computer science within in underrepresented
racial and ethnic groups, but expand on the idea to not only be
limited to computer science but to a wide range of fields.