Jerelyn Rodriguez was disappointed but not discouraged. While seeking grants for her startup, The Knowledge House, a Bronx-based digital tech school, she was often told by funders that what she was doing — exposing Bronx youth to careers in the tech ecosystem — had too many challenges to be investment-worthy.
“They would discourage me and say that for the population we were serving, coding is too hard,” said Rodriguez, who co-founded The Knowledge House in 2014 with Joe Carrano.
Undeterred, Rodriguez kept going. “We received grants, and went back to those funders and showed them that there’s a market for this, there’s a demand for this, and then we got their buy-in.”
“Really what piqued my interest in The Knowledge House was that I went to a middle school where they actually taught us how to code, and it was something that I always liked — I hooked up my friends’ MySpace pages back in the day,” said Paulino. “But I wasn’t really exposed to it as much in high school. I didn’t even think about having a career in this. But when I joined The Knowledge House program, I fell in love with it.”
Support from Capital One has been a game-changer for The Knowledge House. “As a non-profit startup, we want to stay innovative,” says Rodriguez. “But at the same time we have to focus on growth. And Capital One has been that partner that has invested in both innovation and sustainability.”
As The Knowledge House’s programs have transitioned to a virtual environment in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, its partnership with Capital One has helped the school navigate the challenges of moving its digital literacy and tech training programs online through technology and tools. Students themselves have been improving the technology platform where the content lives. This type of capability is even more critical in light of COVID-19 where there is a growing dependence on technology as the lifeline for skills training and education.
Additionally, since moving exclusively to remote learning in March, The Knowledge House has needed to ensure that all students and staff have adequate internet access and the necessary equipment to continue programming from home. The Knowledge House has also tackled the challenges of transitioning its future programs and information sessions from in-person to online, supporting its staff’s well-being, safety and increasing its funder outreach. Seeing such challenges faced by many of its non-profit partners, Capital One focused on increasing digital access in communities that needed it most, including the Bronx, as part of its larger COVID community relief efforts.
That shared goal has proved to be one of several factors that made a partnership with The Knowledge House a perfect match. “We’re so proud to support Jerelyn’s mission and the program because it’s focused on the Bronx residents’ needs, helping with their career trajectory and overall economic growth,” said Aleta Stampley, Capital One’s Director of Community Impact & Investing. “At Capital One, we focus on training the innovators of tomorrow, investing in companies and partnerships with creative approaches and bringing together problem solvers to address difficult community and societal challenges. Together, we want to help change the face of technology, finding, supporting and training talent that at times, others often overlook.”
Rodriguez and her co-founder Joe Carrano have also been able to hire one of their alumni as a full time web developer, with Capital One’s investment. “That feels really good to hire our own alumni,” said Rodriguez. “Their continued partnership has helped us create jobs at our organization.”
Capital One collaborates with The Knowledge House in a variety of ways; many employees volunteer, offering financial well-being workshops for the organization and students. One year The Knowledge House participated in a full day pro bono volunteerism event where employees helped clean up outcomes data.
“Capital One has been a key partner for us for more than two years now,” said Rodriguez. “We really look forward to continuing our partnership and growing our impact in the Bronx.”
The impact is real. To date, more than 1,750 students have graduated from The Knowledge House — Jennifer Paulino among them. After completing her coursework, she began freelancing, then got a job coding for the Department of Education, and is now working for a midtown tech startup called KeyMe, while also creating and coding two apps in her downtime.
“I am a Black Latina, so I don’t see a lot of people that look like me in the field. The Knowledge House is making great strides in creating employment opportunities in diverse communities, making a long lasting impact, something of which I’m very proud to be a part of.”
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