BriteKids is a 501(c)3 foundation designed to provide life changing technical educational opportunities to middle school kids living in the more rural areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills.
Several years ago, my wife and I were fortunate enough to purchase a farm in rural southern Virginia, not far from where I grew up. It was a small piece of heaven just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it lay in sharp contrast to the wealth and technology driven economy in Northern Virginia where we permanently reside. As one of the top executives at Science Applications International, Inc, a leading technology integrator supporting missions of national importance, everyday involves deploying modern technology. It’s an industry which has a hard time filling its job vacancies for skilled IT workers, and those jobs requiring US citizens with the highest security clearances are even harder to find.
In rural Virginia, community involvement is crucial to getting kids to college and to focus on a career in technology. And it has to start at a young age to begin laying the foundation for knowledge, exposures, aspirations and excitement.
I was lucky when I grew up in a rural area of western North Carolina in that some 50 years ago times were pretty good. It was a time similar to when the economic powerhouse driving the Virginia state economy was in southwest Virginia. But that’s all changed. Today technology is driving the economy and its being done out of northern Virginia.
Along the Blue Ridge there are a lack of resources to participate in the technology economy as evidenced by the fact that over 60% of the kids attending the elementary school closest to our farm are eligible for free or reduced meals at school. Parents have no chance in providing the necessary educational opportunities for today’s high paying technical jobs regardless of how talented the kids are.
My parents did not hold back or hesitate on my education. Because they had the financial resources from the growing economy, they were able and willing to invest in my future and without that I would not be where I am today. And they provided lots of educational opportunities.
The educational opportunities I was given had another benefit: it encouraged me to steer clear of trouble, at least clear of enough trouble to become a Rifle Platoon Commander in the US Marines. And by the way, the aspects of that role have changed dramatically over the last 30 years as well and requires much more technical training. Better to send a drone over the ridgeline than a scout.
Today, in the rural areas where the economy no longer provides the opportunities, the school-community partnerships are vital to the success of students which face unique economic and geographic challenges. And trouble lurks around every bend in the road.
Today less than 2% of the population in the rural areas of the Blue Ridge are engaged in information technical jobs; while the average earnings in the software field is $60 an hour, the highest of all industries according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. That’s where the money is today.
The re-connection to the rural community through the purchase of this beautiful farm has led to the formation of the BriteKids Foundation, which stands for “Blue Ridge IT Education for Kids”, a non-profit 501(c)3 focused on providing a technical education to kids in the rural areas of the Blue Ridge mountains and foothills.
These kids in this area hold a special place in my heart. I was one of them. Given the right opportunities, they can and will provide for our future, they can and will fill those high paying tech jobs, they can and will fill the vacancies supporting our government’s mission of national importance, they can and will join a high-tech military, and they will make their families and communities proud.
I hope you will join me in supporting this valuable mission. These programs will have enormous impact.
BriteKids create a Brighter Future.
BriteKids Foundation, Inc.
On April 22, Founder of BriteKids Foundation, presented certificates for full-paid week at Space Academy, Huntsville, Alabama.
The winners were Ainsley Nottingham and Ryan Gallimore. Pictured with Martin McKnezie- Keyboarding/STEM Career, Carroll County Middle School, Carrol County Va, Mrs. Dana Burnette, Principle Carroll County Middle School, Carroll County VA and Founder of BriteKids Foundation, Charlie Mathis.