FEATURE | Pursuing Innovation in Des Moines, Iowa

FEATURE | Pursuing Innovation in Des Moines, Iowa Rosalind Carey, Pi515 | 06/15/2022

In the state of Iowa, a significant gap is growing between the demand for skilled workers in tech fields and the number of candidates who can fill those positions. Pi515’s programs bridge this gap, connecting students with the resources and support they need to foster a life-long interest in tech.

Pi515 is a nonprofit organization that supports underserved middle and high school students in Des Moines, Iowa. We coordinate with local schools and tech organizations to provide hands-on tech education to the community’s youth. Our work is guided by our mission to teach, inspire, and challenge students with potential, empowering them to achieve personal, academic, and financial success.

We provide a variety of programming that is accessible for youth of all ages and skill levels. Middle school students are introduced to the possibilities of technology through self-directed learning. High school students are challenged to strengthen their tech skills through classes that teach them the foundations of coding, website design, app development, robotics, and more. Pi515 connects exceptional students with tech internships and mentorships at companies such as Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group, Athene, and Homesteaders Life Company. We assist students with their resumes, interview skills, and professional skills so they can better compete in the job market following graduation.

In Spring 2022, all of Pi515’s high school seniors graduated with a plan for their futures. Many are continuing their education in college, while others are continuing their internships and apprenticeships. Three of our students have been accepted into Ivy League universities, where they have all chosen to study medicine. Beyond preparing our students for the demands of the future of work, we strive to help them succeed academically, personally, and financially.

In the eight years that Pi515 has been in operation, we have expanded from an extra room in a local church to our own dedicated space. At Mainframe Studios, the office is our base of operations where staff meet and work on a daily basis. All programming takes place off-site, in state-of-the-art facilities provided by our community partners. In April 2022, Pi515 held our annual fundraiser in The Big Room, Mainframe Studios’ largest event space. The event was attended by over 75 guests, including Governor Kim Reynolds. The fundraiser celebrated the eleven young women who completed the 2022 Girls’ Entrepreneurship Summit. The annual summit gives participants the skills and resources necessary to start their own businesses in Iowa.

Our students are leaders in their schools, families, and community. Pi515 programs expose them to the world of technology and the knowledge that they have a place in it. We strongly believe that kids cannot be what they cannot see. The volunteers, partners, and mentors that work with our students throughout the duration of each program reinforce each student’s belief that they too, can succeed in the world of tech.