LPFI Hosts Social Impact Hackathon for Underrepresented Students in Tech; David Johns of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Offered Keynote Remarks

(Atlanta) – Nearly one hundred 8th 9th and 10th grade students from Atlanta gathered at Morehouse College this weekend for the Level the Coding Field” hackathon, a two-day event designed to expose underrepresented students of color to computer science and to promote production rather than just consumption of technology.  During the event, students learned how to develop their own apps and competed for prizes.

“You should be extremely proud of yourselves and feel empowered for taking this step to do something most of you have never done before,” LPFI Director of Programs Danielle Rose told participants. “Knowing how to code and build an app are tools that you can continue to sharpen and positions you influence the world in so many ways.”

The winning team designed an app called Aluna that serves as a one stop shop connectingstudents to academic resources and like-minded peers.  Each member of the winning team received a $500 college scholarship. Each member of the second place team received a $150 scholarship.

At part of the hackathon, participants heard inspirational remarks from  David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Johns celebrated the social impact of the apps that were developed by the students and challenged any detracts by noting,  “These babies are leading change.  Either support them or get out of the way.”

Jewel Burks, founder of tech startup Partpic, also spoke to the student hackers, encouraging them to embrace their new skills. “You don’t have to wait to build what you want to see in the world.”

The finalist’s apps were judged by leaders in tech, government and academia, including Madhusudan Menon, Head of Influencer Relations and Onshore Sales, North America; Melanie Campell, President and CEO of the National Coalition for Civil Participation; Board Chairman for Atlanta Public Schools Courtney English; AT&T Senior Technical Director Maxine Jarman and

The event was organized by the Level Playing Field Institute and sponsored by the Infosys Foundation USA, Morehouse College, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, AT&T, the Knight Foundation and Ford Motor Company with partner support from the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

“Every child should have the opportunity to learn, dream and thrive. But some don’t have access to the resources and education they need to do so,” said Vandana Sikka, Chairperson, Infosys Foundation USA. “At Infosys Foundation USA, we believe in equal opportunity in education. That’s why we’re proud to work with Level Playing Field Institute—an organization that supports students from underrepresented communities and helps them to overcome barriers and biases for a life of learning and success.”

“It is vital that we prepare tomorrow’s workforce today. Our country will need thousands of new employees to fill science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs to meet the demands of the billions of dollars in new projects already in development,” said AT&T Georgia President Beth Shiroishi. “Supporting events like the Level Playing Field Institute goes a long way toward preparing our future workforce at AT&T, across our state and the entire country.”


Founded in 2001, Level Playing Field Institute is committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation