Two young St. Mark's alumni—Peter Kazickas '11 and Eli Lubick '12—have founded an educational program to bring STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) skills to communities around the world.
They call it SPROUT—Science, Programming, & Uncommon Technologies—and its goal is to partner with nonprofits to bring STEM skills and awareness to the developing world.
Kazickas and Lubick were basketball teammates at St. Mark's. A 2015 graduate of Hamilton College, Kazickas had been going to Zimbabwe for six years with an organization called Hoops For Hope (H4H) teaching kids there life skills through basketball. His family was and still is very much involved with the H4H operation.
After graduating from Hobart in 2016, Lubick spent a year working as a software developer at a small company out of New York. "I learned a whole lot," he says, "but when April came around I was looking for something more fulfilling than a desk job." Kazickas reached out to him with the idea of adding a tech program to the H4H experience. "We'd always talked about doing something together that would make a difference," said Lubick. "So after we put some time into the idea, I quit my job and we've been working to make it happen ever since."
They piloted the program this past summer at the Ross School in Easthampton, NY, creating a curriculum. "The areas we hope to reach are those where access to modern technology is limited," explains Lubick. "Our twelve-week coding curriculum begins at the most basic level and gradually introduces more advanced topics such as web design and robotics programming, with the hope of revealing the power and excitement of technology to the students, and encouraging them to explore other STEM outlets. Our vehicle for reaching students is the nonprofit community. We plan to team up with youth/educational nonprofits around the world. We also hope to provide our students and teachers with opportunities at schools and companies, and with a group of capable young people who have programming experience, to garner interest and support."
Kazickas and Lubick are currently focused on raising the funding necessary to implement the project in Zimbabwe, and they plan to travel there in October. They will begin their mission in Zimbabwe with Hoops 4 Hope, training three of their former members as instructors and, with their help, teaching 40 to 60 current H4H students the SPROUT curriculum. They will be bringing the computers for the students and then leaving them with the communities.
What motivated these two St. Markers? For Kazickas, it was his longtime association with H4H and his desire to expand the horizons of the students he was working with. For Lubick it was three things: "A lifelong dream to just help people, a desire to go to Africa, and the ambition to do something special and important with my best friend." All three came together when Kazickas proposed their joint venture which in less than a year would blossom into SPROUT.
The two St. Mark's grads aspire to create "a kids' coding community that will carry on in their wake." For, as Eli Lubick succinctly puts it: "A new world is here, and there's no reason to leave anyone behind."