2021 End of Year Recap

2021 was a busy year for us. Read on to see all that we accomplished.


2021 was a busy year for Pi515. We successfully implemented new programming, continued existing ones, and expanded our community presence and influence. With the help of our community partners, sponsors, and volunteers, we are ready to continue growing and supporting our students in 2022.

Read all that we accomplished below:


We announced our pilot pre-apprenticeship program to run during the spring 2021 semester. Enrolled students learned how to build websites using WordPress and built their own sites based on their areas of interest from scratch. All students who graduated from the program received academic credit, a laptop, and a cash stipend. Thank you to Variety - The Children’s Charity for sponsoring this pilot program.

As many students continued to learn remotely, we offered learn-from-home opportunities for students and scholarships for those graduating high school in the spring.


Pi515 celebrated Black History Month by honoring Black leaders from the Des Moines community, both past and present, on our social media pages.  

Thank you to DLL Finance and their DREAM initiative fundraiser for supporting Pi515 in honor of Black History Month. We are thankful for support from local businesses.


The inaugural edition of our Girls Entrepreneurship Summit began. With this event, we inspire young women aged 11-22 to become entrepreneurs by taking their business ideas and making them a reality. The virtual summit took place over six weeks and featured many talented speakers and mentors. One of the participants, Safie, was featured in a July article of the Des Moines register. Read that article here.

Thank you to the following sponsors for their help in making the Girls Entrepreneurship Summit a success:

  • John Pappajohn
  • The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers
  • Royal Neighbors of America
  • Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

We are excited for our 2022 Girls Entrepreneurship Summit!

Our tee shirt fundraiser raised over $10,000 for women equity in STEM. Our design inspires our Pi515 students by showing them that women, people of color, and people from every socioeconomic background have places in STEM careers.

Kerty Levy featured Pi515 in a guest commentary for Clay and Milk discussing diversity in entrepreneurship. Read the article here.

Des Moines community schools partnered with us for Facebook’s Engineer For The Week. Our interns assisted teachers in implementing the EFTW curriculum and facilitating classes in middle and high schools. Over 130 students participated in this program. Thank you to the Facebook Altoona Data Center for sponsoring this event.


Pi515 Executive Director and Founder Nancy Mwirotsi spoke at StartupBREW Fargo, sharing Pi515’s foundational story and our hopes for the future of work.


Stacy Sullivan, owner of Twist, a women’s clothing and accessory boutique in Urbandale, hosted Pi515 for a shop for a cause event. Thank you to all those that came to shop and to Twist for sharing a portion of their own profits with us.

We moved to our own office space at Mainframe Studios downtown. Having a space designated for our own operations allows us to expand our staff, our equipment, and better plan for future events and programs.


The Pi515 SMART Cities Summer Challenge took place in June and July. We challenged Iowa high school students to look at the problems in their communities and come up with innovative solutions using tech. Students had to address all the elements that comprise a SMART city: infrastructure, transportation, population, electricity, internet, and economics. Each class session featured a keynote speaker to inspire, motivate, and assist the participants. Read more about this event here.

A big thank you to the following sponsors to help put on this event:

  • StartupCity Des Moines
  • AT&T
  • Bank of the West
  • John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers

We are excited for our upcoming 2022 Summer Challenge. More information on this event will be posted in the spring.


Female interns and students of Pi515 got to kick off the Greater Des Moines Partnership Summer Tour by speaking at 1 Million Cups Des Moines. Winny, Maia, and Marlowe shared the work they completed for the SMART Cities Summer Challenge. Khadija and Kiana, two of our college interns, spoke about their experience at Pi515.

We launched our Digital Inclusion Campaign which provides stable and reliable internet access to families in need across Central Iowa. After providing our students with laptops for so many years, we decided it was time to ensure that they could access the internet at home. This campaign tackled the lack of accessibility and digital literacy skills in the home, the affordability of internet providers, and the safety and security when using internet services.

A crucial part of our Digital Inclusion Campaign was the distribution of 300 hotspots to those in need, allowing over 300 students and their families to use the internet safely and securely. Thank you to the following supporters of our campaign:

  • AT&T
  • Connected Nation
  • Grandview University
  • Palmer Group
  • TMC
  • Google Fiber  

Nancy was a guest speaker for the Greater DSM Partnership Podcast about empowering refugee youth and working to create job opportunities in Des Moines. Listen to the podcast episode here.


Nancy graduated from Founder Gym as a member of Cohort 17. Founder Gym connected Nancy and Pi515 to like-minded founders and entrepreneurs across the nation.

With the help of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley, we connected 230 students and family members in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids to the internet. Thank you to AT&T and Connected Nation for their continued support of our Digital Inclusion Campaign and our work to close the digital gap across Iowa.


Our annual CodeJam fundraiser took place at Gravitate Downtown Des Moines. Thank you to everyone who attended and to the following sponsors:

  • American Equity
  • Rocket Referrals
  • Techstars Iowa
  • Anne Roth & Wahlburgers
  • Confluence
  • Stagerie- Nora Crosthwaite
  • Craig Ibsen

Your can read more about this event here.  

Pi515 was invited to attend the 25th year anniversary celebration of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers where the team was able to network with founders and entrepreneurs of all ages from Iowa

Nancy shared the stage with other brilliant minds at the Governor’s Future Ready Iowa Summit. She was able to speak on her experience founding and running Pi515 as part of the Iowa Talent Pipeline panel.  


Facebook’s Engineer For The Week began at Hoyt and Hiatt middle schools in person. We were so excited to get back in the classroom with our students. Thank you to Palmer Group for providing volunteers to facilitate the program.

Our Tech Mentorship Program with Principal began. With the help of their mentors, high school students focused on college readiness, resume strengthening, building confidence, and learning profession, technical, and soft skills. The bi-weekly program is held at Principal’s new Community Learning Center.  We are excited to continue to build Iowa’s workforce with the help of our community partners.

Participants of the SMART Cities Summer Challenge continued their work, applying their knowledge to the Des Moines community to advocate for affordable housing for low-income, elderly residents. Students surveyed community members, compiled and analyzed their findings, and proposed solutions using the tech that they became familiar with over the summer.

A guest commentary article in the Business Record featured Pi515 and our efforts to prepare youth to meet the demands of the digital workplace.  

Pi515 was represented at the 2021 Central Iowa Conference hosted by Women Lead Change. Nancy spoke alongside other leaders from the STEM community about getting young girls and women involved in various tech fields at a young age.

Nancy spoke at the DMACC Urban Campus STEM Legacy Event to an amazing group of middle school girls about the growing influence of technology in our culture and the workforce.

Nancy also represented Pi515 as a panelist at the Young Entrepreneur Convention. The convention connected students with mentors, angel investors, venture capitalists, and founders for insight, motivation, and networking.

Pi515 was invited to the Homesteaders Life Community Involvement Fair to help celebrate Employee Appreciation Week.


Thank you to everyone who participated in our Giving Tuesday campaign. Pi515 was able to raise $4,500. The support of our donors, volunteers, and community partners ensures that we are able to assist families in need and give back to the greater Des Moines community.

Nancy shared her experience about the impact of diversity on problem solving and innovation at the University of Northern Iowa Global Entrepreneurship Week. Diversity makes the world richer and more capable of tackling unique challenges.

Pi515 was represented at the IowaWORKS Roundtable, where Nancy discussed workforce programs and shared resources to hire, train, and retain employees, as well as how Pi515 prepares its students to enter the workforce.

We were featured in a guest commentary on the  growing demographic drought, published in Clay and Milk. Our students are prepared to meet the changing needs of employers and the future of work.

DSM Partnership featured Pi515 as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week alongside other entrepreneurs from the community.

Thank you to AT&T for having Pi515 as part of the BelieveIowa launch. This program is part of a nationwide commitment to help bridge the digital gap. One of our Pi515 students, Maia, presented alongside Nancy about her experiences with the organization.

With the assistance of our community partners, Pi515 shared over 200 Fareway Stores gift cards for students and families in need in the community. Thank you to Angela Connolly and Polk County for sharing these gift cards with us year after year.  


Pi515 was announced as a finalist for the category Entrepreneurial Support Organization of the Year as part of the 2021 Startup Iowa Awards presented by BLX. Congratulations to the other finalists and to those that won.

The DSM Register featured one of our students, Eca, and her experiences with Pi515. Eca has been with us since middle school, and will now be graduating high school in May. We are so proud of her success.

Eca and Tengenza, two of our students that will be graduating in May, were featured in the Pi515 blog. These two students have been with the organization for years, and we are excited to see how they’ve come full circle.

Nancy spoke at the Homesteaders’ Annual Education Luncheon, sharing how Pi515 educates and inspires students to succeed through opportunities in technology and innovation.

Thank you to Midwest Family Lending for their continued support of our organization. Our community partners are crucial in our success.

What’s coming for 2022:

As we move into the new year, we are excited to expand our programs and community impact.  Stay tuned for the 2022 Girls Entrepreneurship Summit, our Summer Challenge, after school programming, and more.

We are incredibly grateful for all the support that we have received from donors, volunteers, and community partners. Without your support, we would be unable to have an impact on the lives of the students that we serve. Thank you.

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