Eca and Tengenza

Eca and Tengenza are two students about to graduate high school. Now, they reflect on their time with Pi515.


Pi515 is in a race against time. The future of work is transitioning into a digital era. All companies are shifting to automation- 83% of all retail jobs now require a digital skill. Pi515 sees a gap in talent and skills needed to fill these roles. COVID has especially highlighted these issues. As we work in the schools we are becoming increasingly concerned with the shortage of teachers, which is affecting all classes, including science and math.  Pi515 is working as a bridge to educate students, giving them both the technology and soft skills they need so we can create a successful future talent pool. This includes preparing them for college and careers.

Eca and Tengenza are two students who have been with Pi515 since middle school, and both will be graduating this spring. Eca and Tengeneza started attending classes when they arrived in Iowa as refugees in Middle School. Pi515 Founder and Executive Director, Nancy, has memories of working with them at Harding Middle School as they learned English and adjusted to life in the United States. One of their first field trips with Pi515 was to Principal Financial Group to meet women in IT.

Over the years, they have continued to participate in Pi515 and they are now seniors at North High School. Eca and Tengenza  have found themselves back at Principal Financial Group as they participate in the Pi515 Tech Mentorship Program at the new Principal Community Learning Center.  These young women have come so far. Eca hopes to attend Drake University to study psychology, specifically mental health counseling. Tengenza hopes to attend the University of Iowa to major in nursing and minor in computer science to continue to build on the digital knowledge she has acquired through Pi515 programs. Both have expressed appreciation of the opportunity to connect with other students and members of the greater Des Moines community through their time with Pi515.

Eca, in particular noted that Pi515 programs involving guest speakers were her favorite. Listening to guests talk about their life experiences can remind students that they’re not alone on their respective journeys. She also felt that working with industry professionals and leading community members helped others realize the talents that she possesses as both a student and a person. Tengenza said that learning within a community has helped her understand that she values a career where she can work with others and assist those in need.

Although only Tengenza has plans to continue her education in computer science, both women will be working in fields where digital literacy and proficiency with technology and information systems are requirements. Through their time with Pi515, Eca and Tengenza have gained the skills to be confident students at college and competitive job applicants in their fields. They’ve taken courses on website design, entrepreneurship, innovation, and  coding languages- including HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In addition, they are gaining important skills in the Principal & Pi515 Tech Mentorship Program. This tech work based program is preparing them for professional development before they even enter college.

Tengenza and Eca are not our only high school students graduating this year. Many others will be leaving our high school cohort to begin college in the fall.  Our students will be using the tech and soft skills that they have learned to pursue their career goals. We want Pi515 students to be competitive job applicants, and feel confident enough to apply for jobs where they might not possess all the desired skills. By preparing our students to pursue upper-level jobs and careers in STEM, we are setting them up for financial security both now and in the future. This financial stability allows them to better support their families and the state of Iowa.

Now is the time to make bold commitments to our youth. Join us as we prepare Pi515 students for the future of work. Donate here.

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