Helping More Students Walk Through Computer Science Doors (With SVEF's Lisa Andrew)

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This is a podcast episode titled, Helping More Students Walk Through Computer Science Doors (With SVEF's Lisa Andrew). The summary for this episode is: <p>The secret to helping students succeed in computer science isn't a secret at all. They just need access to a high-quality, robust, curriculum. </p><p><br></p><p>But opening those doors to an adequate computer science curriculum is easier said than done.</p><p><br></p><p>Lisa Andrew, president of Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), has dedicated her adult life to working with students and teachers. Through her experience, Lisa has seen how a bureaucratic education system can create obstacles for certain community sectors. She and SVEF are on a mission to break down those obstacles by advocating for more doors to be opened for all students in California, and providing both students and teachers with the services they need to help them walk through those doors. </p><p><br></p><p>In this episode of the American Dream podcast, Lisa explains how and why there's unequal funding for students in Silicon Valley, the importance of not only advocating for students, but delivering services to them, and how her own childhood experience, followed by her experience as a mother of biracial children, informs her work today.</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p><br></p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias on Twitter at @eliast and @DriftPodcasts, and Lisa on LinkedIn.</p><p><br></p><p>For more learnings from Elias, check out his quarterly newsletter, The American Dream. You can subscribe at</p>
The secret to setting students up for success
01:22 MIN
A breakdown of SVEF’s funding, & What computer science curriculum looks like in California
02:53 MIN
The importance of opening doors for students and helping them walk through those doors
02:41 MIN

Elias Torres: Hola, I'm Elias Torres, Co-founder and CTO of Drift. You're listening to the American Dream podcast. On this show, we talk to leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream, but we also focus on the work that needs to be done to create a more consistent and diverse face of corporate America. That's why I'm setting aside time to talk to leaders of nonprofit organizations, the people leading the charge to build a brighter future for the next generation. foreign language on today's episode of the American Dream podcast, we have Lisa Andrew. Lisa is the President and CEO, there's a lot of articles and awards out there for her, best CEO, of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. As the largest education nonprofit in Silicon Valley, SVEF has supported over 27, 000 students in their goals to study science, technology, engineering, and math. Over the next 40 minutes, we're going to learn how Lisa got involved with SVEF, how SVEF supports students, and what's in store for 2022. Welcome, Lisa. Tell us a little bit about how yourself had this calling to work on this amazing foundation.

Lisa Andrew: Yes. Well, thank you for having me. I have been blessed, fortunate to have been... I've worked in education for over 30 years. And I started my educational career with a science degree from our local university, so I've always had a propensity toward science. I've had one of those more jungle gym careers where I've been a teacher, and then a teacher coach, and then assistant principal, principal, so climbing the ladder in the educational system. But then from time to time I ventured off to the left and to the right, and did more of a supporting role to the educational systems. So I spent some time working at our County Office of Ed providing services, and then I spent some time in a nonprofit working with the lowest 5% of the schools in California, then went back into the system to be a superintendent. And then I got this call from a headhunter that said, " Look, you're a female interested in science, you seem to be an early adopter of technologies, everywhere you've gone, you've been able to serve students of color very, very well. And we think you'd be a great fit as the next CEO President of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, what do you think?" And I knew that my passion for working with students who traditionally don't have access or opportunity to success, I really had to think about, did I want to leave that direct touch with them and then come over and actually be a wraparound support services to their districts? And what really enticed me was coming out of the system and not having to deal with all the bureaucracy that the educational system is now plugged and clogged with, and be able to be nimble and flexible, and to be focused on providing direct services to teachers and students right now when they need it. And so that's what attracted me to the position.

Elias Torres: That's awesome. I like it. So I guess we can speak ill of the education system now. Like it's-

Lisa Andrew: I would never speak ill of the education system because it's what I know and love, and it's what I get up every day to support. But I don't think it's any secret that the educational system is fraught with bureaucracy.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: And that while that bureaucracy may be there seemingly to protect the adults and the children, what the bureaucracy is doing is acting as an obstacle for particular sectors of our community to have access to success and opportunity to economic mobility.

Elias Torres: Yes, I agree. I agree 100%. I think human beings we're just love bureaucracy. It's just like we're just so attracted to it and we love to recreate it everywhere. So it's the spirit of Silicon Valley, and startups, and tech, it's to... as an entrepreneur, we just like to break bureaucracy wherever we go, and it's difficult. And as my company grows we're like, the more people we have, the more bureaucratic it becomes, and it's like, how much of it we can take, how much of it we have to break down and stay nimble. So I appreciate the feeling. And I tend to not like to complain too much about systems, because unless I'm going to go make it better, so I just want to help and learn, and I'm also thankful, right, that I was able to break through that same system and benefit from it, right. And I think what you're doing, I'll tell you maybe a little bit of the opportunities I took advantage of, but I want to hear more about those direct services to you give to kids and teachers today.

Lisa Andrew: Yes. Yes. One of the foundational aspects of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation that makes it very different is that we provide direct services to teachers and to students, as well as develop appropriate high quality, culturally responsive growth mindset facing curriculum. So we are really grounded in the research of Richard Elmore around the instructional core. So it makes the organization incredibly complex in that, what are we doing to create professional teachers and high quality teachers in STEM education? And what are we doing to create opportunities for students who are not on grade level, who are not given a chance to accelerate? How are we also providing them with direct services? And then how are we modeling really rigorous, appropriate curriculum?

Elias Torres: Right.

Lisa Andrew: And it's a triangle or trifecta because what we know through our results, which have been research validated by third parties, is that the professional learning that we provide for the teachers, based on the curriculum and the pedagogy that we've created, produces high results in students. So it's no secret what students need in order to succeed, it isn't, it's just we have to have the courage to do it and we have-

Elias Torres: What's the secret? What's the secret?

Lisa Andrew: Right, well, the secret is that you have to give them an access to high quality and you have to give them the opportunity to succeed, which means you have to come around them, right. And I think so many of our students here in Silicon Valley don't have that access to high quality, don't have that access to a robust curriculum, and so, therefore, they're not going to succeed. They don't have the pathway to do it.

Elias Torres: crosstalk What do you mean? Silicon Valley, California is the richest, has the most taxes, the wealthiest people, the beacon of hope of technology and the future of this country. Wait, not everyone has equal access there?

Lisa Andrew: No, not at all. You have a student who lives in East San Jose and a student who lives in Los Altos, same county, $13, 000 per student difference per year. So based on the funding formula that is used in the state of California, students are not funded equally, definitely not funded equitably. So even if we just started with funding students equally-

Elias Torres: Let's just ask that question again, right. Does that make any sense whatsoever, right, that we get to have a formula for school purposes, right? I don't know, I haven't thought about this, I'm just saying stuff out of my mouth, right? I'd say, I would think that, hey, we have a million dollars, or we have$ 100 million, or we have a billion dollars in California, then we come up with a cost per head per student, and we just multiply how many students you have and everybody gets the same budget, right? Let's say, right. It's like, why not, right? And if a town pays more taxes, whatever, they can build a private school, right, they can do whatever, those rich people, they can go to a private school, that's their choice, right, if they don't like. But I would say, by nature, if all this rich people live in this town, that's cool, we'll be better, at least better supported, whatever it is, right. But from a government perspective, why do we treat one individual with more money than another, right? As far as the government and the state goal is concerned, right. Does that make sense?

Lisa Andrew: It doesn't make sense to me, but it takes us... we've come now full circle to how we started this talk, that it's about the bureaucracy and the adults in the system maintaining a bureaucracy and maintaining a system that serves them and that doesn't serve students.

Elias Torres: Yes. No, I agree.

Lisa Andrew: So that is what we are living here in California. It's known, it's accepted because not only, Elias, not only do this schools that get money based on their property taxes get more per student, their families are creating school foundations, and home and school clubs, and paying for art teachers. So not only are they getting more per student based on their property taxes, they also have the means to give computer science coursework, robotics, Math- A- Thons, hackathons, they also can afford to do that. And so now you're a student in East San Jose, property taxes do not afford you the per pupil amount and you are not in a community where there's a lot of extra income so that parents can supplement and subsidize these other computer science, robotics, STEM activities, right? crosstalk So that's why we exist.

Elias Torres: Right.

Lisa Andrew: We exist to fill that in for those communities.

Elias Torres: And is the funding for schools 100% based on property taxes or is there government as well?

Lisa Andrew: Mm- hmm( affirmative) Great question. So we'll start with state funds. First, there is a per pupil base amount that's given for every student, then if your area has more property tax, you're also given that amount.

Elias Torres: Got it.

Lisa Andrew: Now the students that are in communities where there isn't high property tax, a lot of times those areas have students who are high concentration students who are learning English, high concentration students crosstalk who are, yes, like you, on crosstalk.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: Right. So the state of California does give supplemental and concentration funds to address those needs, however, it's to address those needs. That can't be seen as, well, you're getting money for this, so that makes up for what we're getting in property tax, because they need money to address those needs. It's apples and oranges.

Elias Torres: But it's still a big gap regardless, even if you were to include that offset.

Lisa Andrew: It's massive. It's$13, 000 per student, as I just said. I mean-

Elias Torres: What's the total budget per student?

Lisa Andrew: That depends. It depends on-

Elias Torres: Normally, give an example, I want to know, if it's 97 to 114.

Lisa Andrew: Yes, I don't know that off the top. I would be really shooting in the dark, and that's the sad thing, it's such a variable that there's so many factors that go into it. But it's a massive difference. Money isn't the solution to everything, but I'll tell you this, if you're a teacher trying to live in Silicon Valley, are you going to work somewhere where you can make$ 75,000 a year or are you going to work somewhere where you can make$ 95,000 a year?

Elias Torres: No, absolutely. I do think that money solves everything, if it's used properly, right. With the bureaucracy, I mean, you can do, not everything, but you know what I mean, this kind problems. But I think what you're alluding to is that there's leadership, there has to be strategy, there has to be execution to pour it into the right places to solve specific problems, right?

Lisa Andrew: Takes courage.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: What's needed is courage.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: We have to have the courage to do the right thing. And what that means is telling folks that, yes, the folks over here are going to get this amount, they're going to get this access, they're going to get this opportunity because you already have it.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: And we don't have the courage to say that. Also, money talks when you want to get elected, money talks when you want to make a property deal, money talks. So all of this really attracted me to this organization because we seek individual funds, corporate funds, foundation funds, governmental funds, all targeted, all for, all focused on students where this gap of funding exists and we want to make sure they have the mathematics, the technology, the engineering, the robotics, the computer science, all of those opportunities as their peers do, so that they can become part of the Silicon Valley workforce, so that they can work in their community.

Elias Torres: Yes, it's like Silicon Valley just wants amazing, talented engineers that come to them for free, trained by somebody else, and preferably white, right, and if you get some diverse ones, good, fantastic, we got some diverse ones and just they showed up. But let's not figure out how we can help them, right?

Lisa Andrew: Right.

Elias Torres: It's like, oh, wow, you're rare. And so I was going to say, question, what is your... it's a nonprofit, right? So it's public. What is your total amount of funding? How does that work? What are you distributing? Right.

Lisa Andrew: Yes. Yes. Good question. So we run about a eight million dollar budget, and all of that we get probably close to half of that is state and government funding that we get from school districts, and then the other half of that we raise through fundraising efforts, as I said, with individuals, corporations and foundations, and also with some monies that come from our Board of Supervisors, county board of supervisors and city council and such. For the direct services that we provide, the school districts pay half and we go and match, we get grants to match the other half.

Elias Torres: Okay. And you train teachers directly at where? Where does training occur?

Lisa Andrew: Well, right now it occurs virtually.

Elias Torres: I bet.

Lisa Andrew: And so, we'll go to the school districts where they are and bring... we have space here.

Elias Torres: So there's a lot of CS curriculum out there, right? But do you have your own?

Lisa Andrew: Is there? I don't think so?

Elias Torres: Wow, that's good to know. In my basic understanding of this is, one, that computers, right, it's we learn it online, right. We learn it on our own, right. There's a lot of bootcamp schools, right, in my understanding. And then there's another option, for example, MIT had open their courseware, right, their curriculum, Stanford has some curriculum. So I was just wondering, there are options out there of follow this courses from universities, right? I mean, the packaging, the access, I don't know if it's the mentoring, the supervising, the guiding, but the material itself I know is publicly available, right? What's missing?

Lisa Andrew: Right. So the California computer science standards were actually developed and approved under the Obama administration. And so California was handed kindergarten through 12th grade computer science standards. No curriculum, but they're standards. And the standard is run by grade span, this is what a kindergartner or third grader should do crosstalk. In computer science, yes, in computer science, because computer science is data science, computational thinking, coding, there's a lot of design, a lot of components to it. So we, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, we had the standards. There was no fifth grade curriculum, no sixth grade curriculum, no eighth grade curriculum.

Elias Torres: Got it.

Lisa Andrew: Yes, I know down the street at San Jose State they're pumping out some wonderful engineers, but I think they're 18, 19 and 20 year olds that they're working with. We're also the regional lead for an organization called code. org, and so we had some experience with gathering up professional development providers and gathering up curriculum writers. And so we, in house, brought folks together based on the standards, pulled together the content. Now, the successful component has to do with pedagogy, how do you deliver it? A 12 year old is not interested in sitting there and going through a tutorial on YouTube, right? They want to be in a classroom with the stuff, they want the stuff like, how does this work? How do I connect this to that? Who is this? And then someone has to supervise that, then it has to be tested, and then they have to iterate, and then they have to redesign, and then they have to iterate, right? The really good pedagogy that needs to come with it, that's what we created.

Elias Torres: Got it.

Lisa Andrew: That's what we created. Then-

Elias Torres: Is that something that you make it like, I'm on the board of a school here, elementary, right, local where my kids went to elementary, if they wanted to teach, could they grab your courses?

Lisa Andrew: Yes, they could contact us and we could share what we've developed. We're not for profit.

Elias Torres: Mm- hmm( affirmative).

Lisa Andrew: I'm not over here sitting on something saying, this is ours, this is what it is. But I mean, that's part of what we have... that's again getting rid of the bureaucracy, again getting out of the way and just giving access to students. You want a diverse workforce, you got to make this accessible to a diverse student body.

Elias Torres: I mean, I'm friends with Mitch and Freada Kapor, right, in Berkeley, and it's such a long process and funnel to fix this problem, right? I mean, starts from housing, food, just basic necessities, right? Then you have school, then it's like, okay, you get food at school, right? And then we start trying to layer it like CS, and then entrepreneurship, and then go to college, and then get a higher college, and then get a job. And then we lose... half of them don't get a job if they study computer science, if you're black or Latina, right? And then it's like, okay, you get a job, how do we keep you in a job and you don't get fired? It's like the problem is huge, right, so I definitely appreciate what you're doing there.

Lisa Andrew: But you got to start.

Elias Torres: Yes. Everybody crosstalk has to pick a spot in the funnel they work in.

Lisa Andrew: Exactly, you got to pick a spot, you got to start. And I think a lot of what we also help, not help, the students don't need our help, they need our support and they need access, is realizing a bigger voice. You know this, you got this is, here's how you advocate, here's how you speak the speak, right. There's that code switching that has to go on a lot of times with our students, like, this is how when we're in this space, when we do our hackathons, or when we do our Appathons, or when we bring kids together to do presentations it's like, this is how you speak in this space.

Elias Torres: crosstalk What is an Appathon?

Lisa Andrew: You create an App. crosstalk Wells Fargo has given grants to middle schools here and they've done after school program, and then they get together and they share the Apps that they've developed. And it's amazing because, you know this is an entrepreneur yourself, some of the best, easiest, simplest ideas come from a 12 year old, because their mind isn't cluttered and they don't have obstacle yet.

Elias Torres: And by the way, ideas are dime a dozen, it's being able to execute the problem, crosstalk that's the hard part. A couple of funny things I did with my kids, I've been trying to... being an immigrant, being food stamps, it was I would go to school and I would work to support and help my mother. There was no after school programs, no tutors, no piano, no tenets, no none of that stuff, right? No skiing.

Lisa Andrew: Yes.

Elias Torres: And so with my kids growing up, my kids now are 18, I have one in Northeastern and I have two, a 15 and a 17 year old besides crosstalk.

Lisa Andrew: Oh, wow, congratulations.

Elias Torres: Thanks. And so-

Lisa Andrew: You're still standing and smiling

Elias Torres: What was that?

Lisa Andrew: You're still standing and smiling.

Elias Torres: I'm surviving. Survived, yes, almost there. And the thing about it is that I always felt inadequate especially in the early years of their childhood because I just couldn't keep up with the bills, I couldn't keep up with the... my wife was at home with them, it's three kids and I'm like, wow, I'm not taking them to all these things that all these people I work with at IBM are taking their children to. And I live in Lowell, Massachusetts, very underrepresented communities there and not the best place in Massachusetts, and it's like I don't have tutors, they're not going to music, I'm trying, am I teaching them. And what am I going to do? And so I thought maybe I was going to teach them computers because that was the thing that I knew the most, right. Even then I just couldn't find the time or necessarily find the right pedagogy.

Lisa Andrew: Pedagogy.

Elias Torres: Pedagogy. It's like pedagogía in Spanish.

Lisa Andrew: Mm- hmm( affirmative).

Elias Torres: I couldn't find that, Miss, I didn't know it, right. And you got to find the right moment with kids, right? It's like everything has to be right and you have to support them. And so one of the things that I did I found was... so I ended up... they're getting older, I tried a couple of things, I got them a Raspberry Pi, then we used it twice and never went anywhere. But then when they got a little bit older they wanted a phone. And so I said, " The only way you get a phone is if you build an App and I install it on my phone from the App Store."

Lisa Andrew: Right.

Elias Torres: And so that's how there was a lot of kicking, and screaming, and crying, and finding ways around it. Can I pay somebody to do it with my savings from my... You can anything you want.

Lisa Andrew: I love it. I love it.

Elias Torres: So the first two built them, I installed them, and they got their phone. The third one still doesn't want to build it. So I'm like, no phone yet. So he's 15 crosstalk.

Lisa Andrew: Yes, I mean, that's good. It's good.

Elias Torres: And I have one more story then you tell me, how can we help the students more because my daughter, I took her skiing last weekend and she brought a friend from college, a young black kid from Dallas, from Texas. And he was blown away, never seen snow, never seen skiing mountain. And then we went to have a brunch in Downtown Boston in some fancy social club, right. We had a great weekend together with him and he asked me so many questions because he's studying computer science. And so he was telling me his journey and how he went from school to school, and to worse school, better school, and he just never known consistency. But somehow he made it to apply and get accepted to Northeastern, right. And he's studying CS and he's like, what classes... should I do foundations? How do I become an entrepreneur like you? So he just sucked me dry with questions of what classes, what to focus on, because he's seen what I was able to offer my kids, right, in a different way. And he goes at the end when I dropped him off, he goes, " Thank you so much. I learned so much, right." He met a billionaire couple that was at this club. His eyes were wide open, he's like, " I want to start a company, I want to learn computer science." And so I'm like, How can I help more, inspire and model to kids what they can become?

Lisa Andrew: Yes. Yes. Yes. I think a lot of when I hear your story, and while I am afforded white privilege because I'm white, I too never saw snow until I was an adult. I remember the first time I saw table cloth napkins and tablecloths I got a scholarship from the local Kiwanis Club as a high schooler because I was the most improved high school student. Why? I was working and supporting my family as well in East San Jose. So I quickly learned, as this person learned, that I can persevere, I can be tenacious, I can ask questions, I can be curious, but there's a door that has to be opened so that I know what's on the other side, so that I know what's possible. And I think what I realized, and you have realized, is it's our responsibility to make sure that we open those doors. A lot of society thinks, well, I gave them the opportunity, so pull yourself up by the bootstraps and go through. Well, that's just not a reality.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: That's just not a reality for many, many, many students in this community. So I wake up every morning going, what door do I need to open a day? And who do I need to open it for? And who do I need to make sure walks through it successfully, can choose to stay on that side?

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: Because there's a whole thing, as you said, you have to learn how to navigate depending upon what you look like when you walk through that door. So I think that's, one, we need to demand it from the system. So that's where the advocacy part of our foundation, we advocate and we deliver. So we're two prong. So we're advocating to make sure that those doors are opened, and people open them, and the people in power open them. And then delivering so that students know how to walk through them, can choose to walk through them, can choose to stay on that side, and can choose the path of economic mobility. So I think that's what our calling is. If we really want a diverse workforce in jobs that students can choose that look, whatever they define is economically mobile, I need a great gardener, and I need a great engineer, and I need a great plumber, okay. However, I want that to be your choice.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: And I want you to know how to run your business and I want you to know how to market it and all of that. Then we have to tap on that bureaucratic system and help them navigate through it. We bring college mentors into to speak with the students so they can see college mentors from their community, so they can say, hey, this is how I supported my family, got on the bus and attended classes. They hear it much differently from them than from me, even though I had to do the same thing.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: It's like, really, really, woman? You had to do that? I don't think so. And you already knew how to speak English. So I think that, again, you know what needs to happen for these students, we need to have the courage and we need to have the expectation.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: When you have the courage to do it ourselves and the expectation that others do it.

Elias Torres: Yes. But opening the door is really what people just don't realize, right? It's like, I've had some tough conversations with white people that are like, that's not gentrification, they sold their home. I got here, why can't that person get here? Right?

Lisa Andrew: Yes.

Elias Torres: And it's hard to get that through because it's like, me, I went to a job for USF, I went in Tampa, and I went every year. I was a freshman and I would show up with a tie, and a white baggy shirt that I bought at TJ Maxx or something or... And I was dressed, and I showed up, and I printed my resume in... And they would laugh at me at the job fair because they were like, you're a freshman, what are you doing here? Right.

Lisa Andrew: Doing a job.

Elias Torres: And I'm like, I'm getting a job, right. And it's like, that's why I'm in school, I need to pay for things. And so they would make fun of me every summer every time I would go to the job fair, but I would go to every job fair. And in one of them I was a junior and I knew some seniors that drove to Atlanta to a bigger job fair, and so I was like, I go to this job fair and they make fun of me all the time, let me go to the bigger job fair. So I drove with them as a junior for five hours to Atlanta. And I met a black man named Bill Lawrence who was doing a diversity recruiting for IBM. See, he was opening doors.

Lisa Andrew: Right.

Elias Torres: And he was bringing those doors to the people that needed to go walk through them, right. And so he saw me and he goes, " I need you to come to White Plains next year." Again, not this year but the following. So he goes, " And it doesn't matter." And so I kept his card, his email, and I emailed him, and he flew me to White Plains, right. And that's how I went from Florida. And so, to me, I know every door that has been pointed out and opened for me.

Lisa Andrew: Right. Right.

Elias Torres: I couldn't have done it myself, there was just no way.

Lisa Andrew: Right. And that's just what has to happen. And I think for the folks that don't understand that, it's because it's no part of their lived experience. It's no part of their lived experience, so therefore, it doesn't exist. And I think it was a such a shocker for me, I have biracial children and I was raising them, doing this and that and getting them through working blah, blah, blah. When my daughter entered Middle School and all of a sudden she was asked to identify, are you Latina or are you white? And she was having all of these issues. And I was like, what are they talking about? I had no, zero idea what she was going through, how to... I grew up in East San Jose, I grew up surrounded... I thought, I get this stuff, I get it. No idea what this afforded me, zero alias until I could not help my own daughter. And that's when I had a massive wake up call about where I was on my racial awareness spectrum, my cultural awareness spectrum. Just because I grew up in this community that was where I was... maybe there was five white kids, didn't make me understand, didn't assist me in understanding their lived experience, because I still look like this.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: I still had doors opened for me without me even knowing.

Elias Torres: Exactly. Yes.

Lisa Andrew: So it was like, oh, my gosh, I mean, I crosstalk

Elias Torres: And by the way, in my opinion, I feel like, sorry to interrupt, but it's like doors... I don't know, I'm just going to be a generalist. Very rarely, a white person opens a door for us. It's like my story has been people of color that have been opening doors for me.

Lisa Andrew: Exactly.

Elias Torres: It's like the truth is I just don't see that many doors... you're opening doors, right?

Lisa Andrew: Right.

Elias Torres: You're doing it, right? inaudible But you had to live through it and through your own kids, right?

Lisa Andrew: Right.

Elias Torres: And I'm learning with Black Lives Matter, for example, like I always connected with African Americans in the sense we're united in like, yes, yes, the police, yes, we say this and I thought we were the same, but I had to go through a lot of education because I don't live what they live, right?

Lisa Andrew: That's right. That's right.

Elias Torres: My path is different than theirs and it's a different type of inequity and injustice, right?

Lisa Andrew: Right. Right. So I'm fortunate that I have a board of ex- Silicon Valley, I shouldn't say ex, retired Silicon Valley CEOs that are white, that get this.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: And are very, very dedicated to, what doors need to be opened? Who can I open it for? I mean, I'm really proud that over the last three years we've added five women to our board. No, six women to our board and five of them are women of color.

Elias Torres: Wow.

Lisa Andrew: I specifically recruited them.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: I specifically went, this is why, because their lived experience is different, we need that on our board and they can open doors in a different way than my other board members.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: And my board got that and understood it.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: So again, it's having the courage to have the conversation, the expectation that this is what we're going to do. We must look like the students that we serve, we need to understand what it is the barriers that we with our influence, as a Silicon Valley Education Foundation Board, our influence, how can that be used so that the students, the 27, 000, the 50, 000, however many thousand that we're going to serve, have the opportunity to have access to succeed that they do succeed and that they can be economically mobile? I want to see my kids being the engineers down the street at Cisco, at Oracle. That's what I want to see.

Elias Torres: Yes, absolutely. Yes. And opening a door is not that hard. I mean, it's show them around, invite them dinner once, tell them a story. I had my daughter abroad for December for Christmas, but all her classmates and friends and like five six of them, and we had dinner at the house and they were like asking for college advice, and how to get a job, and when to interview, and what careers do this and that. It's like, all those things and they were like, " Can I contact you when I graduated for a job?" Yes. So just open a door for them to feel comfortable.

Lisa Andrew: That's right.

Elias Torres: Right? It's unbelievable what opening a door and holding an open just for very little for someone could end up becoming an entrepreneur like it happened to me, right?

Lisa Andrew: That's right.

Elias Torres: Where little by little, I'm 45, so it's taken me 25 years to get to this position, but now I'm in the process of learning. The reason why I do this podcast is to share the learnings because a lot of people are intimidated, right, and not able to talk on either side of this, whether you be white or you be of color, right, for fear of repercussion, for fear of not getting a job or getting fired. And I say, my job is to be that voice and say, let me just tell the problem like it is and inspire people to achieve their own version of their American dream, right. Which is, I'm thankful that this country is way more accessible to opportunity than my country was, right. So I'm definitely grateful. And that's why I don't like to complain about the system, but we got to help it.

Lisa Andrew: When I make statements it's like, if you can't put the facts into the light, you can't address them. Not complaining about the system, this is just an is.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: So what are we going to do about it? And I'm here, I will get in the boat with you, I will row with you, I will give you 110%, but we're going to name it.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: We're going to move. And if that is something for people who... this country, this California, Silicon Valley is working for some people, it's working really well, and they want to protect that because it's working really well for them. So they don't want any boats, they don't want to move. And we have to demand it and expect it that, no, this is what's going to happen, and we're going to be that constant voice and drip and just come in force.

Elias Torres: I love that you're so non- nonsense. Not nonsense, you have common sense and you don't care because maybe if I would be in your position I'd be worried, oh, my god, I mean, if I call out the Silicon Valley wealthy execs top tech people, then they're not going to donate, right. But you're calling it and you have the people that care, it's we have to go with who cares, inaudible.

Lisa Andrew: Yes. You know what, I'm not the right fit for those kinds of donors.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: And there are those donors and they're giving to other nonprofits that are maintaining their beliefs. And they get to do that.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: The right donor for me, it's a partnership. And so the wonderful, amazing donors that we have, they're like, yes, they recognize I got this for these reasons, I have this, this is my community and this is who I want to help.

Elias Torres: Yes.

Lisa Andrew: So I would never want to disappoint a donor by spending their money in a way and sending a message in a way that wasn't aligned to their values.

Elias Torres: Perfect.

Lisa Andrew: So I guess it's... Yes. Yes.

Elias Torres: This is awesome. I think we'll cut it off here because people don't have that much attention span.

Lisa Andrew: But it's been great talking with you.

Elias Torres: I know. Absolutely, same. I love your personality and your, we call it GSD, get shit done. Thanks for listening to the American Dream podcast. Make sure to hit subscribe so you never miss when a new episode drops. If you liked this episode, please leave a six star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're interested in learning more about my American dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter, link in the show notes.


The secret to helping students succeed in computer science isn't a secret at all. They just need access to a high-quality, robust, curriculum.

But opening those doors to an adequate computer science curriculum is easier said than done.

Lisa Andrew, president of Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), has dedicated her adult life to working with students and teachers. Through her experience, Lisa has seen how a bureaucratic education system can create obstacles for certain community sectors. She and SVEF are on a mission to break down those obstacles by advocating for more doors to be opened for all students in California, and providing both students and teachers with the services they need to help them walk through those doors.

Key Moments:

  • (1:18) How Lisa got involved with SVEF
  • (3:49) The impact of a bureaucratic education system
  • (5:31) How SVEF services students and teachers
  • (7:14) The secret to setting students up for success
  • (8:06) Why unequal funding for students exists in the United States
  • (15:02) A breakdown of SVEF’s funding 
  • (16:22) What computer science curriculum looks like in California
  • (22:37) Elias’ experience raising children interested in computer science
  • (26:37) How Lisa's childhood influences her work today
  • (28:34) The importance of opening doors for students and helping them walk through those doors
  • (38:43) How we're going to work to change the system

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Today's Host

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Elias Torres

|Co-founder & CTO, Drift

Today's Guests

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Lisa Andrew, Ed.D

|President & CEO, Silicon Valley Education Foundation