Michael Ellison and Ron Griswell are industry changemakers redefining black history | News

The black diaspora has long been plagued by rigid definitions of traditional “blackness” encompassing what “we” do and don’t do. The beauty of our community, however, is that we are not the monolith that much of the world assumes we are.

A signature part of Walmart’s Black & Unlimited initiative is to demonstrate that the depths of black culture cannot be contained and that there are multitudes of changemakers who have created spaces in places we don’t. not traditionally occupy. Enter Michael Ellison and Ron Griswell.

Ellison is the founder and CEO of CodePath.org, a nonprofit organization designed to increase the number of ethnically underrepresented workers in the engineering and IT industries, which sadly remain undiversified.

CodePath aims to level these rules of the game by offering students the opportunity to develop real-world projects with the help of top-notch mentorship. They have access to strong networking opportunities, mock interviews and coaching programs. With a $1.6 million donation through the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, CodePath.org was able to expand its program to even more HBCUs, opening doors for Black students to spark successful careers in tech.

Ellison has spent his career driving it forward: After enduring childhood poverty, he got into the tech startup game as a teenager, eventually becoming a founding board member of Women Who Code and co-founder of the Segment customer data hub, which landed $1.5 billion. Evaluation.

Michael Ellison, Walmart, NAACP ImageAwards 2022, Changemakers

“Our education system is failing low-income and underrepresented populations,” Ellison told New Profit. “CodePath addresses the root causes of the lack of diverse representation in technology by broadly improving curricula and support structures for diverse and low-income populations.”

Since its inception in 2017, CodePath has taught at over 70 colleges and impacted over 10,000 students, 61% of whom are from low-income or underrepresented minorities. About 85% of black and Latino alumni of the program work as software engineers.

The program received a $2.25 million grant from the Knight Foundation to expand existing programs at Florida International University and launch new programs at Florida Memorial University and Miami Dade College.

“Not everyone needs or should be a programmer, but everyone should be tech savvy,” Ellison said. “Digital literacy and data literacy are not optional skills. Technology is transforming every industry and every job.

With each year that CodePath.org helps create an increasingly diverse tech industry, Ellison will cement his legacy as a Black & Unlimited winner. “We need to make sure everyone in our communities has the skills they need for the future of work,” he said. “A deeper understanding of technology will also empower people to create new and better solutions to bring about positive change in their communities.”

Ron Griswell tackles a space that is arguably less “dark” than technology: the great outdoors. As a high school student, Griswell was reminded by his classmates, spitefully, that black Americans are not known for their connection to Mother Nature.

“When I talked about the outdoors, the Oreo joke came up – black on the outside, white on the inside,” he told Children and Nature Network.

Growing up in North Carolina, the outdoors has always been a part of Griswell’s world. But a service-learning experience in Belize while enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University led him to start outdoor HBCUs in 2020. He did so with a simple goal: to bring students at historically black colleges and universities more acclimated to the outdoors.

Ron Griswell, Walmart, NAACP ImageAwards 2022, Changemakers

“We want to see more black faces running trails, climbing mountains and sitting at outdoor industry meeting tables,” Griswell said. “We help HBCU students and alumni enjoy the natural world and become the leaders we need for a healthy planet and a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive outdoor industry.”

Griswell has dedicated his career to a variety of outdoor and environmental pursuits, including writing and reporting and working as an environmental travel companion. Much of his time these days is spent expanding HBCUs outdoors, whose experiential programming ranges from mountaineering to hiking to skill-building.

“These are America’s next black leaders and the time for them to start caring about the outdoors is in college. That’s when people discover new things, get curious, and explore themselves and their passions,” Griswell told Outside Business Journal. “Black students should have the same opportunities and resources to get out – and they should have had them yesterday.”

RELATED: Shop gear inspired by Ron Griswell

As Walmart and other brand partners provide financial support to Outside HBCUs, they are, in turn, exposed to a potentially more diverse workforce.

“It’s important for companies to know they’re invited to these campuses,” Griswell said. “In turn, they should come forward and say, ‘We appreciate you and think you will be a great asset to our organization. Once you start changing the physical makeup of these companies, that’s where the real diversity and inclusion starts to take place.

As HBCUs Outside grows, Griswell will remain his authentic self as the face of the company.

“I feel like when people see themselves reflected in me, they feel more welcome in those spaces,” he said. “I know it’s a feeling that can not only change their life, but also change the world.”

Walmart will celebrate and showcase the breadth of Black interests and identities; inspiring discovery of the things people need to speak their identities loud and clear – to the value and affordability that Walmart is known for. To visit here to apply for the CodePath program; to visit here to join the HBCUs Outside community.

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