A portion of MacKenzie Scott’s $25M donation will put a pilot group of 100 people through 4Geeks’ program.
By Riley Kaminer
In the frenzy of launches, funding rounds, and relocations – are Miamians actually benefiting from the growth of Miami’s tech ecosystem?
Marcelo Ricigliano, CEO of Miami-based global coding school 4Geeks Academy, is on a mission to more evenly distribute the benefits of our increasingly vibrant tech community. A new collaboration with United Way Miami will further accelerate these efforts.
The partnership stems from a $25 million donation billionaire MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon founder and native Miamian Jeff Bezos, gave to United Way Miami. A portion of these funds will be spent to put a pilot group of 100 people through 4Geeks’ program.
Crucially, this is not a scholarship, Ricigliano explained. Rather, this is funding to help pay the students’ tuition. Once the student successfully completes the course and secures a job, they will then pay back the tuition.
“This is about giving more people opportunities,” Ricigliano told Refresh Miami. “When students start making payments, then the funding will be available again.” Ricigliano hopes that this initial cohort will give this model credibility and help him make the case for expanding this to a larger audience.
This initiative aims to close race and gender gaps in the tech space by focusing on single female heads of household, military veterans, and people of color making less than $35,000.
What would success look like to Ricigliano? Securing 80 students a job making upwards of $45,000 a year. That’s within the realm of possibility, since 4Geeks reports that around 86% of students who successfully complete the course are able to find gainful employment afterwards.
For Mary Donworth, Chief Program Officer of United Way Miami, this partnership offers an exciting opportunity to break down the barriers facing this target group of students. She noted that participants will also be able to access a living stipend, which they would have to pay back, as well as additional financial support mechanisms that they would not have to pay back.
“While students take this course, either part-time or full-time, their lives still continue,” Donworth said. “They still have to pay their rent, they still may have childcare issues, et cetera. They can’t put everything on hold. So we’re excited to build in this wraparound support.”
When United Way Miami was determining the most impactful way to deploy these funds, they turned to Boston-based nonprofit Social Finance. Jake Edwards, Social Finance’s Vice President of Social Investments, underscored the positive impact of creating an upskilling program targeted at this underserved population.
“Potential is universal but opportunity is not,” asserted Edwards. He noted that this program will teach students valuable skills – and along the way, will provide employers with the talented employees that they need.
4Geek’s rapid growth trajectory continues. Ricigliano reported that they have received three times the number of applications this year than ever before. And Miami tech growth is not just hype, according to Ricigliano: “The jobs are here.”
The company, which has 60 full-time employees and 110 part-time employees, continues to expand its global footprint – with Canada and one more European destination yet to be disclosed.
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