Last year, we launched our Pledge to Equality scholarship to help create equitable opportunities for underrepresented communities — starting with the Black community. As part of the initiative, we pledged 1,000 scholarships to increase diversity in workplaces by providing access to in-demand, practical skills that tech companies look for today.
And as we complete the first leg of the scholarship program, we are delighted to share that not only did we offer our Nanodegree programs to as many as 750 students, we also connected these students to companies like AnyScale, Blacks in Technology (BIT), Cardinal E-Commerce, Collective Health, Emerson Collective, StreetCode and Udacity itself through a virtual career fair.
We are proud to see how we have been instrumental in changing the lives of so many students. Last week we featured the story of Ramona Saintandre, a proud 50-year-old trailblazer.
In this blog, we will highlight four more inspirational students who are ready to take on new roles in the technology industry after completing the scholarship program.
Eboni Wigginton, Arlington, Virginia
Eboni proudly introduces herself as a single mother of three children — two boys and one dog. When the Pledge to Equality scholarship was announced she decided to enroll in the Business Analytics Nanodegree program simply because she wanted to help people understand and participate in the stock market.
“I applied because this is something that I’ve looked at for a while now, but couldn’t afford it. The scholarship has changed how I feel about myself. I’ve tried programming and other tech-related skills in the past and it never really clicked. Learning was like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. I tried so long and it got to the point that I doubted myself and my ability to understand complex things.
“But after this program, I actually fell in love with statistics; reading books and watching videos. I feel more confident about myself and I can’t wait to land a job in this field,” she said.
Eventually, Eboni wants to become a financial systems analyst. “I would like to use my new skills to help consult small businesses in some way,” she added.
Alawna Jamison, Richmond, Virginia
Alawna Jamison is a graduate of our Marketing Analytics Nanodegree program. While she has been in the tech space for years now, Alawna has never truly felt part of the tech community.
“My background is in operations and customer experience, so I know the basics when it comes to data collection and analysis, but I’ve never felt confident in my skills. This Nanodegree program has truly changed my life when it comes to leveling up my technical skills. Who knew an excel sheet could be used for something more than a to-do list,” said Alawna.
At the end of last year, she founded KIT (Keeping It Together) Strategies with an initial goal to help small black-owned businesses get access to customers and help them strategize work operations. The Nanodegree program has made her confident enough to think bigger.
“My Nanodegree program is going to help me bring an improved data-driven approach to my consulting services. As I rethink the direction of KIT, there will be more emphasis on Black wellness and mindfulness than the consultancy arm. For my consulting services, I plan on shifting to a pay-what-you-can model, with the goal being that more Black-owned businesses will have access to customer experience and operation strategies than usual,” she added.
Joshua Scales, Dallas, Texas
When Joshua won a seat in the Pledge to Equality scholarship, he decided to enroll in the AI for Trading Nanodegree program. This is because he is building an intrusion detection system with machine learning for the financial sector to prevent financial crimes and fraud with end-to-end deep neural networks for malware classification.
“Udacity’s program on Neural Networks covers this topic and this boosted my confidence. My services will be used by the United States government to make the way we do transactions safer. It will also help create a better record-keeping process with our state-of-the-art blockchain system that we use,” he said.
Joshua — who is currently working as a machine learning engineer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — plans to use his skills at his current workplace. “I definitely plan to scale my business and create jobs and training in underserved communities,” he added.
Valchrista Mitchell, Glendale, Arizona
Valchrista defines herself as a big supporter of life-long learning. But the reason she applied for this scholarship was more than gaining more knowledge.
Back in 2018, Valchrista was chosen for the Udacity Grow with Google scholarship program, but due to some personal health emergencies, she couldn’t complete it.
“I was at the start of a major depressive episode. But when this scholarship opportunity appeared, my physical and mental health was improving. Coincidently, I had been watching SkillShare videos and researching programming courses when I found the opportunity. It seemed like a great time to start afresh. And, so I applied, got selected, and enrolled in the Programming for Data Science with Python Nanodegree program,” she said.
Valchrista has a degree in Communications and Education. She hopes to combine her knowledge in communications and education with her newfound skills—programming for data science with python—to educate others. Valchrista aspires to build a curriculum for programming that several companies can use to support their students and/or employees.
“Most important people in my life are black and people of color. Many of them have never imagined that programming would be as accessible as it has been during this program. With the skills and certification from this Nanodegree program, I hope to support other Black people breaking into programming and realizing that they are more than capable of succeeding in the field.
There are few faces that look like mine in the technology industry as it is, and I want to encourage others to take a chance on something new like coding, whether that leads to someone starting a Nanodegree program themselves or picking up a new hobby,” she added.
These are just some of the inspiring stories from this initiative. We are proud of everyone who participated in this scholarship program.
Want to start learning, check out our scholarships and apply now.