Brooklyn on Tech: SU alums build a platform for future leaders

The new nonprofit organization provides students with resources to succeed in today's technology-centered society.

Brooklyn on Tech, a nonprofit dedicated to building the next generation of technological entrepreneurs, held its first "Tech Flex Launch” in Dumbo, Brooklyn this Friday.

Founded in 2013 by two Syracuse University alumni, Jessica Santana and Evin Robinson, the nonprofit’s focus is Brooklyn.

“It’s not a secret. There has been an effort to address the digital divide, but there’s still a lack of meaningful participation in tech-related fields by those from historically underrepresented backgrounds,” Santana said.

The two left home in 2007 to study information technology and management at SU’s School of Information Studies. Every year when they came home, they found Brooklyn more tech savvy, more connected than before.

“Today, when people think of Brooklyn they think of Dumbo and Williamsburg. Advertising and management firms have started locating their offices here. But, what stands out still is a lack of local talent,” Robinson said.

Brooklyn on Tech was born with the idea to give back to community, they said.

The organization commemorated Charles Bonello and Matt Harrigan from Grand Central Tech; Brandon Whitney and Ethan Uttech from ioby; and Fiaza Issa from the NYC Department of Small Business Services with the “2014 Brooklyn on Tech Flex Economic and Community Impact” award.

It is their way of recognizing people who have, through their work, brought about a positive change in Brooklyn and New York City.

They also emphasized that not many enrichment programs focused on high school students. They wanted to tap into an age group that had been a turning point in their own lives.

Every year, Brooklyn on Tech will select 20 public high school students that exhibit rare talents and entrepreneurial traits for a yearlong Tech Flex program. With this goal in mind, they welcomed their twenty Tech Flex Scholars for 2014 at their inaugural event. 

These twenty students will be exposed to new trends in technology, connected to mentors and thought leaders in an industry of their choice, and offered professional and leadership opportunities to grow.

JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, General Assembly and Shapeways are some of the organizations that Brooklyn on Tech has connected with to provide mentors.

Syracuse University’s iSchool has had an instrumental role to play in their journey so far.

“We were given the resources to allow our ideas to develop into tangible plans. A lot of business-oriented competitions like Panasci and Idea allowed us to apply our skills and aim higher,” Santana said.

She said that with schools like Newhouse School of Public Communications, Whitman School of Management and the iSchool, SU is a cradle for future leaders.  

“To me, entrepreneurship means opportunity,” Robinson said. “A lot of entrepreneurs see opportunity where other people don’t. At the same time entrepreneurs build opportunity for themselves and for others,” he said.

That is what Brooklyn on Tech aims to do with young thinkers. The individual could be an artist or a mathematician. It doesn’t matter. Technology is simply used to add another dimension to their innate talent.

“Growing up, I felt that I was not just an ordinary consumer of technology. I had a burning desire to develop and innovate, rather than just use,” Robinson said.

Santana and Robinson pointed out that since technology is shaping the future of every field in today’s market, it is crucial to master it.

“It is important to realize its transformative power, its ability to break down barriers and build bridges,” they said.

The two urge youngsters to understand that the path to entrepreneurship is built on sacrifice and hard work. If you would like to make donations to Brooklyn on Tech, you can do so at their website.

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