One year ago, Kyanne Parchment, 18, dreamed of making the coolest programs and the hottest apps. But after one semester at the University of California, Davis, she now plans to create a virtual classroom so more minorities like her can enter the field of computer science.
“There are so many job opportunities in the field of computer science,” she said. “However, there are too few minorities qualified to fill those jobs. Access to an economical, virtual computer science class would provide underserved students with the exposure to this field that could help them determine if computer science is a possible career path for them.”
Parchment spoke Friday at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) 13th annual Black History Month celebration, which honors the achievements of local African-American businesses and leaders, their contributions to economic growth, service to the community and participation in energy-efficiency programs.
“I have a new dream,” said Parchment, who received a $40,000 Edison Scholarship last year to pursue her studies in the STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) fields. “And Edison is helping to position me to realize this dream, which has the potential to open doors for many others.”
A graduate of Henry J. Kaiser High School in Fontana, Parchment is used to a school with a small African-American population. But she was not prepared for what she saw at UC Davis last fall. The renowned college currently has 900 African-American students, only 2 percent of its 35,000 students.
She also quickly recognized a need for more minorities in the field of computer science. In Parchment’s programming class, she is one of three African-American students and the only African-American female in a class with 396 students.
“This reality made me even more grateful to Edison for giving me the opportunity to be here,” she said. “I know scholarships provide students with the funds they need to attend college. But this scholarship from Edison has provided much more.”
It’s this experience that has also propelled her to be an agent of change.
In addition to the lack of diversity in the computer science field, Parchment has also seen the lack of women working at major tech companies across the country. She believes this is largely due to the lack of exposure minorities have to STEM subjects such as computer science.
She believes her new dream of creating a virtual classroom will help make STEM classes more readily available to minorities and underserved students.
“I think we need more ‘Edisons’ to help give a greater number of minorities a chance to succeed and explore the STEM fields,” she said. “There are many other students with tremendous abilities who just need a helping hand.”
“The power of education is truly transformative. It can change individuals, even entire communities,” said Tammy Tumbling, director of Philanthropy and Community Investment at SCE.
“This is why education is one of our giving priorities at Edison International,” she said. “Through grants funded by our shareholder dollars last year, we contributed more than $11 million toward education programs and scholarships that target the underserved. Our support focuses on providing students from our communities with scholarships in the STEM fields.”