TechSpark

Instructors and students participate in the Girls Who Code Club that TechSpark helped start at Halifax County Public Schools. The new CSTA chapter will help start new opportunities like this.

Thanks to a partnership with CodeVa, a Richmond-based nonprofit, the SOVA Innovation Hub plans to help local educators prepare students for jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Through this partnership, kindergarten through 12th grade teachers will have access to computer science education training and professional development free of charge.

Currently under construction, the Hub is set to open later this year at 715 Wilborn Ave. in South Boston.

“We’ve been working with the Department of Education to make this information available to teachers,” said Chris Dovi, executive director of CodeVA. “75% of STEM field jobs are computer science jobs. Agriculture is becoming increasingly dependent on computer science. Advanced manufacturing is also dependent on computer science.”

CodeVA is the first of the partnerships that the SOVA Innovation Hub’s founding partners, Microsoft Corp. and Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), plan to forge to advance the Hub’s missions.

“Our goal for the SOVA Innovation Hub is to use the space to encourage innovation and spur economic opportunities in the region, bringing together local nonprofit organizations from throughout Southern Virginia to offer impactful programming for digital skills education and workforce training,” said Jeremy Satterfield, manager of Microsoft TechSpark Virginia. “This partnership with CodeVA will bring digital skilling opportunities in computer science to the region for teachers and students alike. This partnership and education is so important because the skills obtained at an early age help cement the zest for future employment in computer science.”

In a news release announcing the partnership, Tad Deriso, president and CEO of MBC, said that MBC is “thrilled” to welcome CodeVA as the first partner at the Hub.

“The role that CodeVA will play in granting access to computer science resources will be invaluable to teachers and students in Southern Virginia,” Deriso said.

CodeVA is creating a new Computer Science Teachers Association chapter in Southern Virginia to provide the computer science education training and resources.

“We’re very excited about the Southern Virginia chapter. It is the strongest of three new CSTA chapters in Virginia,” Dovi said. “With computer science being a relatively new subject taught in schools, teachers need that community (for resources and support).”

Local educators will lead the CSTA chapter, with support from CodeVA staff in Richmond and at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. Lori Meadows, geometry teacher at Halifax County High School, is the chapter’s president.

“Computer science is becoming integrated into every subject, and it will be very beneficial to have resources available for our K-12 teachers as they navigate how to teach computer science skills in their classrooms,” Meadows said, in a news release announcing the CodeVA partnership.

Teachers interested in computer science education training opportunities provided by CodeVA can enroll at www.codevirginia.org.

The computer science training provided by CodeVA through the SOVA Innovation Hub will help promote the Hub’s mission of promoting digital skills and employability, a mission shared by Microsoft Corp.

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person on the planet to achieve more,” Satterfield said. “In Virginia, we are working to do this through the Microsoft TechSpark Initiative. TechSpark is working to foster economic impact and opportunity to residents in South Boston – and five other communities in the U.S.”

Satterfield added, “The SOVA Hub and our recent partnership announcement with CodeVA are excellent examples of ways that we are actively working to expand opportunity, training and employment opportunities to our community.”

This is not the first time CodeVA has worked closely with Microsoft Corp. In recent years, Dovi said Microsoft Corp. supported CodeVA in the organization’s advocacy efforts to make computer science part of the Standards of Learning for Virginia students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Once the SOVA Hub opens, Microsoft TechSpark will have its headquarters on the first floor of the Hub, while MBC’s headquarters will be located on the second floor. MBC builds and operates more than 1,900 route miles of fiber, with the mission of “promoting economic development by bridging the digital divide, reinvesting in Southern Virginia communities, and reducing the burden of government.”

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.