4‑H and Google Inspire Kids to Discover Technology

by Kittrina Thompson

National 4‑H Council and Google recently convened in Oklahoma to announce a new $6 million collaboration to bring computer science (CS) education to underserved youth across the country. This grant—part of Grow with Google’s efforts to ensure that everyone has access to future opportunities—will help provide more than 1 million youth across the country with computer science (CS) skills, plus computer science training for their educators over the next three years. There’s also a focus on rural youth and populations that have traditionally had limited access to CS education.

As a part of the announcement, Google and 4‑H shared the story of Decklan Thomas, a high schooler from Bruceton Mills, West Virginia (population 86). Following three generations in the trucking industry, Decklan knew he was destined to follow the family tradition and pursue a career in the field.

Here’s a bit of his journey into computer science:

One day, Decklan learned about computer science through his local 4‑H chapter. He didn’t even know he was coding at first—it just felt like solving a puzzle on the computer. As he began to do more coding, he quickly saw the parallels between the skills you need to be a mechanic and the computer science he was learning at 4‑H. He says, “You see something wrong, then fix it—and end up with something amazing.” Decklan is still enthusiastic about becoming a diesel mechanic, but he’s now also exploring other opportunities like becoming a biomedical engineer or even going into the Navy.

Brian Wendlandt, a Google Data Center Facilities Technician, also shared his 4‑H story and how his experience in Oklahoma 4‑H inspired where he is today:

I grew up going to my local 4‑H chapter in Oklahoma. I loved learning about animal care, teamwork, and practical farm skills—a hallmark of 4‑H. Like Decklan, those skills inspired me to learn how to fix things—I went to Oklahoma State University and went on to work for Google in Pryor. And I still fix things: the servers in our data centers that power our internet products for people across the country.

Wendlandt shares that he and Decklan are “representative of the many students across the United States who lack access to computer science learning opportunities.” With the creation of computer science-related jobs at nearly four times the rate of other jobs, students in small towns need more opportunities to discover and learn CS skills in classrooms and clubs at school, as well as introducing students and parent to CS opportunities outside of school.

“Together with 4‑H, we believe in the potential of technology–and youth—to change and improve our lives, industries and communities,” Wendlandt says. “The Google.org grant will provide 4‑H educators with the resources they need to ensure that students can access the skills they’ll need—both technical and non-technical—to create the technology that may improve our future.”