By Jane Broom, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs

Yesterday was one of those great days where I felt inspired, energized and hopeful about the future of young people in our community. I can’t help wonder where the lives of more than 800 high school students I met today at the annual Microsoft TEALS Field Trip will take them. Will that amazing kid from Rainier Beach High School– the one with the twinkle in his eye and mischievous grin – become the next Bill Gates? Will that confident, compassionate girl from Lake Washington STEM High School someday start her own gaming company that inspires thousands of girls to pursue computer science careers? Perhaps one of them will combine a love of computer science with a love of teaching and become a high school computer science teacher who sparks passion in his or her students – just like TEALS founder Kevin Wang has done?

Kevin Wang, founder of TEALS, taking the stage.

TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that brings technology professionals and curriculum to high schools, providing the students I met yesterday and many more around the country with access to high-quality computer science courses. As part of the curricula, the TEALS students come to the Microsoft campus in Redmond where they interact with professionals, hear about interesting developments in the field, and learn about local colleges, jobs and other resources, including programs at Microsoft.

Bing talking to students at the Opportunity Fair.

Computer science is what drives the technological innovation that now underpins the global economy. It is one of the fastest growing, lucrative and rewarding fields that a student can pursue. Yet, very few schools around the nation offer it as a course. For instance, of the 770 public and private high schools in the state of Washington, only 35 offer the AP course in computer science.

800 students from all over the Puget Sound area came to Microsoft for the TEALS field trip.

The scarcity of these courses has an even greater impact on students of color. Of the 542 Washington students who took the AP computer science exam last year, less than 25 were Hispanic, African-American or Native-American.

But we are on the verge of important change. The energy, diversity, curiosity and smarts that I saw in the students yesterday can’t be ignored. They will demand more and more of these high-quality, relevant opportunities. Incredible TEALS volunteers are catalyzing change inside high schools and helping to rapidly build access to these courses. They are proving that it can be done in all kinds of schools. The Washington State Legislature is doing its part, too. It recently passed legislation to make computer science count as a math or science graduation requirement.

To me, there is nothing more rewarding than supporting young people in pursuit of their potential. Yesterday’s TEALS field trip was one of those days that made us at Microsoft proud to have played a part. Watch the videos below to hear some of the students’ stories and understand why I ended the day feeling so excited and hopeful for the future.