Black History Month, or African American history month, began as a weeklong celebration in 1926. This month is a time when we as a country celebrate and honor the achievements of African Americans and recognize their immense contributions to society and culture. RIVA is committed to facilitating a culture where diversity, equity, and inclusion are respected and intentionally valued. We encourage employees to immerse themselves in causes that resonate with them, and to share them with others to further their respective efforts. Join us as we celebrate Black History Month and acknowledge difference-makers at RIVA.
This month we are spotlighting Kareem Aaron, an IT professional and consultant working as a Sr. RPA Developer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Human Resource Management (HRM). Kareem serves as a board member for Byte Back, a tech school that helps to provide IT training opportunities for minority communities in the DC and Baltimore areas. Kareem detailed his path to involvement in Byte Back:
“I’ve always been driven to work with organizations that help minorities or the less fortunate change the trajectory of their life or career through Information Technology (IT) training. Indeed, my life changed drastically, for the good, after I obtained just a few IT certifications.”
About Byte Back
Since inception in 1997, Byte Back has served as a bridge for individuals with a craving for knowledge to cross the digital divide.
Digital Divide: the gap between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.
Even after accounting for income, the digital divide disproportionately affects urban minority communities. Byte Back has endeavored to teach its students fundamental computer skills that enable them to flourish in an increasingly inclusive tech world. Training for students includes programs in computer foundations, Microsoft Office specialist, and CompTIA certification. The name Byte Back stems from the common phrase “Fight Back”, and they are fiercely committed to relentlessly fighting for digital equity for their students, alumni, their families, and thousands of others just like them.
Impact to the Community
Byte Back envisions a future where every adult has an equal opportunity and access to gain digital skills. The skills they learn through Bye Back lay the foundation for a successful future and economic security. In addition to directly supporting equal opportunity in learning computer and IT skills, they support a range of other digital equity initiatives. These include advancement of broadband internet for all and access to tech devices, with emphasis placed upon computers and laptops, which have a direct correlation with increased career opportunities.
In 2019 Byte Back successfully launched a site in Baltimore. This marks the city’s first pathway of free tech training for adults ranging from computer foundations to tech certifications. 2020 saw the rise of COVID-19 forcing Byte Back to adapt in the face of an uncertain and unpredictable environment. They deftly transitioned from in-person to distance learning at the onset of the pandemic. Students are currently able to complete their classes virtually, and loaner laptops are provided if needed. Byte Back now looks to the future with a growth mindset and the same insatiable hunger to bridge the “digital divide”.
What’s next for Byte Back…
With two sites now open, Byte Back has three priorities for expansion and development. First is to continuously improve upon operations and the core program model of their DC HQ. Expansion will be made possible by scaling through their branch model. The “branch” model entails opening locally-led Byte Back sites across the country which will be supported by DC HQ staff. This method will be implemented when opening of their 3rd site in Youngstown Ohio commences. Lastly, Byte Back plans on growing operations through collaboration. Partnerships will prove to be a pivotal component of expansion models and plans. Their plan is to partner with local non-profits, funders, government agencies, and employers in each new site location. Byte back plans to continue their trajectory of growth despite the setbacks of the pandemic.
Bridging the digital divide will not happen overnight, and will require collaboration in addition to constant improvement. Expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in Tech is possible with your help! Donations allow students to learn essential tech skills for free. A donation of just $25 will provide learning kits for Computer Foundations students, and a donation of $100 covers a day of instructions for a class of 10-15 students! If you’re interested in “fighting back”, and getting involved in Byte Back’s mission check out their website to learn more.