The Bronx Academy Of Software Engineering (BASE)

Last Thursday morning, I took the Lexington line (4 train) up to Fordham Road in the Bronx, then transferred to the Bx12 bus for a few stops and got off at the corner of Fordham Road and Crotona Ave. I walked a half a block south on Crotona Road and arrived at Grace Dodge Vocational High School, the home of the Bronx Academy Of Software Engineering. [foursquare, google maps]

(I originally wrote Grace Hopper Vocational High School – a freudian slip)

Grace hopper

The Brox Academy Of Software Engineering (BASE) is the sister school of The Academy Of Software Engineering (AFSE) which opened in Union Square last fall. This is the second of hopefully a handful of small NYC high schools (~500 students) that focus on computer science.

I was part a small group of tech community folks who spoke with the 9th graders in the school auditorium. We talked a bit about why we got into building software when we were young and how it has helped us in our careers and lives. We took questions from the students and then broke up into smaller groups for more discussion.

The students who go to BASE are almost entirely from the Bronx. They are bright and curious. One wanted to start a videogames company. Another wanted to study computer security. Another wanted my job. I told him that it will be available by the time he's ready for it. The one thing that these students aren't is white, wealthy, and entitled. They understand that they need to learn the important skills of the future and they selected BASE as their high school for that reason.

Like AFSE, BASE is a four year high school that teaches a college prep curriculum but adds four years of computer science education alongside. These students will be well prepared to go to two year and four year colleges after BASE, but it is also possible that some of these students will go right into the workforce after high school. The idea behind BASE is to give them the skills so that they can get a good job when its time for them to stop studying and start working.

If you need a dose of hopefulness and optimism for our future, go visit AFSE or BASE. I have visited both schools in the past two weeks and nothing puts a smile on my face more than young curious kids who are excited to learn something new and confident in their abilities to do so. When the students exhibiting that behavior are from communities in NYC that generally lack these kinds of opportunities, it is even more exciting to me.

If you would like to help BASE, the best way to do that is to sign up for the iMentor program and mentor a BASE student in the iMentor program. The committment is one weeknight a month for a couple hours (6-8pm) plus occasional emails with the student. I have attended these iMentor sessions and they are action packed well organized affairs that facilitate the mentoring process. If you live in Westchester, Connecticut, The Bronx, or the eastide of Manhattan, you are well situated to mentor at BASE. You do not have to be a software engineer to mentor at BASE. You just need to be a caring adult with something to offer a BASE student.

If you would like to mentor at BASE, go here and complete the application and mention BASE in your application. If you want to mentor at another school, such as AFSE, then mention that one in your application.

Obviously engaging with a school like BASE is extremely helpful to the school and the students, but I can tell you that it is also very helpful for you as well. I know how much joy I get from these schools and these students and I bet you will too.

#hacking education#NYC

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    those doors look uninviting

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, this is the “standard” NYC public school. so many of them were built in the 40s and 50s. they all look like this.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Simple thing like a lighter colour blue on the doors would probably help a lot.

        1. panterosa,

          I have done color consulting for many years. One of my favorite skills is color matching, and color shifting to make things better.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            It’s telling when the environment around us isn’t supportive by fostering how we function – as to who is decision makers and their understanding of us, how we function, and the world around us.I agree though – it’s fun to design. I love design, and colour is highly important – it is the sound you hear when there is not silence, which of course is important to balance with a blank canvas.

      2. laurie kalmanson

        They prepared workers for factories thenYou are preparing people for the future

        1. fredwilson

          yeah, that’s the idea

      3. laurie kalmanson

        With your help at the seed level, read write code will be in the curriculum everywhereTeaching kids about the bigger world is a huge giftMy padawan is 10 and she goes to a good private school but there is nothing like this in the coursework — it should start in elementary school. They have all the computers a school could need and smartboards and their own laptops but the offering is to kids as users not makersHmmmmm maybe time for a chat with the head of school

  2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Is it not a regular high school?It says vocational high school… are these kids not regular school goers?

    1. fredwilson

      that’s what the building saysBASE is one of several schools in that buildingi know its confusing

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Standing UP and saluting….(literally inside the office right now).For the initiative.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      My highschool was a “Collegiate & Vocational Institute” – it was a highschool though.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Got it.We used to have vocational periods where girls are taught embroidery and related and guys are taught carpentering and related … not there is the curriculum anymore in India now.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          There is a bit of that at the schools, and clearly by including it in the name of the schools it was found to be important – and may have even kept the spirit of it alive. Through efficiencies and economies of scale – cutting costs by factory lining education and material that’s doesn’t require as much hands-on help – it’s started to kill experiential learning … which is what we need to go back to, do more of.

  3. laurie kalmanson

    So much awesome

    1. fredwilson

      you know what? i wrote Grace Hopper when the school is actually called Grace Dodge. that is a massive freudian slip. i will fix the post. but maybe leave record of the slip.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        I was so excited that a NYC public high school was named for her. Maybe the BASE could be.Leaving the slip shows where your head is at 2x — your touch points and your honor

  4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Very cool! How are students recruited to this school. Is it purely based on geography or is there an outreach program to parents to expose them to this. On an unrelated note, can anyone recommend a fun and educational app or website to get my 8 year old nephew started with coding. He is super interested in math and very bright.

    1. falicon

      If you have a iPad try hopscotch.

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        He has got an iPod touch which might also support this but I will look into it. Anyways, I might buy him an iPad anyways or better even I should get him a laptop

      1. fredwilson

        we are big fans of Scratch and are helping to bring it to the NYC schools, particularly the elementary schools

        1. bsoist

          I’ve seen it used in elementary and middle schools. I use it as part of an introduction to CS course I teach which is geared toward 8th and 9th graders.

      2. DoctorVP

        Panterosa’s daugher is a scratch master. She does it for her school and I have seen her create some fantastic things. Such an excellent idea.

        1. fredwilson

          welcome to AVC, DoctorVP πŸ™‚

      3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        Will do. Thanks!

    2. panterosa,

      Check out KinderTown, an app review site. Also, @fakegrimlock recommended one which you move blocks, I forgot the name. There’s a board game called Robot Turtles on Kickstarter right now which is coding too.

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        Awesome. Very useful. It was great meeting up with you and your boyfriend on Monday night! Make sure you keep me updated about your kickstarter campaign

        1. panterosa,

          Great to meet you too! Congrats on your new baby – I am striving to change the way she learns for the better!We will keep you posted in KS. Count down to launch has started

    3. fredwilson

      outreach, then they have to make it their top choice, then a lottery among those that made it their top choice.

  5. Anne Libby

    I got a note from iMentor, asking me to reach out to the men in my circle to recruit them as mentors. (They want mentor/mentee pairs to be single gender.)This is not about gender imbalance at the school, but in the volunteer/mentor population.Man up?

    1. ShanaC


      1. Anne Libby

        One evening a month during the school year, there’s a meeting with your mentee. This is in a group setting, with other mentor/mentee pairs. You also commit to reading one weekly email from your mentee, and responding to it in a meaningful way. If I understand correctly, the email communication with the mentee is very structured, and directed by the folks at iMentor. The point is to share a view of career/life history, how you made choices that led to where you are today. And for you to get to know your mentee. If someone from iMentor is reading today, maybe they can elaborate…

        1. Kait Sweetman

          Hi Anne,I work at iMentor and you’ve explained it perfectly. The communication you will have with your mentee is based on a tried and true curriculum model. You’ll discuss important topics related to high school and college success while also forming a bond with your mentee that will allow them to ask you their own questions and learn from your experience.Sign up at or shoot me an email if you have more questions. kaitlin at imentor dot org

  6. awaldstein

    I read this, I think of my dad.From the immigrant Jewish Polish community in Paterson, who as a physicist went back and spent his career to teach science to others in the same community.Good for you Fred! Good works outlive us all.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. mortality and legacy are powerful motivators

      1. Max Yoder

        @awaldstein:disqus Did you guys see this article? http://opinionator.blogs.ny…I think this shows that some widespread assumptions about human egoism are oversimplified at best. However self-interested or narcissistic we may be, our capacity to find purpose and value in our lives depends on what we expect to happen to others after our deaths. Even the egotistic tycoon who is devoted to his own glory might discover that his ambitions seemed pointless if humanity’s disappearance was imminent. Although some people can afford not to depend on the kindness of strangers, virtually everyone depends on the future existence of strangers.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          If we didn’t have this deeply instilled in all of our brain’s mechanisms to direct and guide our behavior, our species wouldn’t have come as far as it has. We wouldn’t be social beings either. You can’t have cohesiveness without commonalities – or more specifically deeply rooted fear of survival.

          1. Max Yoder

            So many neat points in the essay.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Was what I said above in there? I didn’t read the link yet, just your quote.

        2. ShanaC

          brilliant quote

  7. LIAD

    One of the most endearing aspects of this blog for me is that posts start;’I took the subway, bus and then walked X blocks…’Rather than,’I called an Uber/jumped on my jet…’People yap a lot about VC value-add. They spout breadth of network/industry expertise -yada yada . I don’t think they mean jack.I want VC value-add in terms of characteristics and personal qualities. Self-awareness, humility and integrity being core.This post is a prime example of real VC value-add

    1. fredwilson

      i love mass transit. it’s fast, efficient, environmental, and public

      1. Timothy Meade

        First time on NYC subways, thanks Shana for getting me back safely as far as the M60 to LGA.I rode the busses in Akron, Ohio for a few years and learned a lot about the people you don’t learn in private cars zooming past them, makes it so easy to forget about what is going on in the real world.

      2. jason wright

        ‘subway’ reminds me – when will the new USV look be published?

        1. fredwilson

          its out there on the web now. we aren’t blocking anyone from using it but its not yet at it will be soon.we have been using it with some of our close friends for a month or so. it’s great.

      3. Matt A. Myers

        A creative writing teacher in highschool gave us an exercise one day.It was simple. Write what you know about – because that is the easiest.I since then modified it – do what you know.When I was first out of highschool I went to Ryerson University in Toronto. I was enrolled in Urban & Regional Planning – city planning. I only stayed in the program for a year, though a few things stuck with me.One of those things was the homework of one of the professors.That homework was to read, front-to-back, EIGHT local newspapers EVERY day. The idea was to know the city or at minimum know how others are seeing the city in a broader scope than your own experiences; I’m not sure anyone ever actually did this, though the point towards importance was made.If you’re creating tools for the masses (or investing in them), for community, what will be most useful, you absolutely must absorb yourself in the same environment to see the problems that exist, to experience them. It’s obvious as to why seeing a prototype and having more experience as to what kinds of tools are useful helps understand and natural experience the value something brings.

        1. Joe Wilkinson

          Very good point Matt! Too few people fully immerse themselves into the community they are making tools for. Wether its on the investment side, or the entrepreneurial side.On another note, I’m impressed you had eight local papers!

          1. Matt A. Myers

            This was in Toronto, there probably were a lot more than that – at least that being 10+ years ago…Now the advice might be better off as “Read your city sub-Reddit all day long!”

          2. Joe Wilkinson

            That’s right! I was of course thinking about how many papers my city has now, it definitely would have made more sense 10+ years ago :)I like the read your X sub-reddit advice! Not just in replace of the eight local papers, but to your larger point of “absorbing yourself in your environment. Definitely a great idea.

        2. ShanaC

          I used to do this. It was super revealing about town divides that are not immediately apparent.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            And then there’s the nuanced understand of language use that can be applied, to see what biases an author may have, as well as if they are more conservative or liberal, shallow or broad-thinking in nature.

      4. Richard

        Chinese are leading the way in public rail. Hopefully these high schoolers will learn about this.

        1. ShanaC

          from discussions I’ve been having, it seems finally light rail is expanding in the US.

      5. Joe Wilkinson

        It’s especially excellent when it’s done right like in NYC, or many places in Asia. Always pains me when I see it done poorly, such a waste of a good opportunity.

      6. takingpitches

        old school network effect

      7. laurie kalmanson

        … and it’s long and winding private/public/quasi public funding structure is a complex thing that would probably make launching it from scratch today impossiblemeanwhile, china is way ahead in fast trains and europe has long been way ahead in getting people from one place to another without requiring individuals to own carswe have a train gap…

    2. kenberger

      and you missed the part about that this was *in the Bronx*.I remember as a kid thinking this was the 1 city where the guy next to you on the subway could be a billionaire, how all walks of life mix on the MTA (albeit not in equal measure). I didn’t then imagine this would actually ever be possible in a place like The Bronx.The City sure has changed.

      1. pointsnfigures

        yes, that doesn’t happen in other cities.

      2. awaldstein

        That’s putting it mildly.Some complain about the gentrification of New York. I applaud the fact 24/7 there is no part of the city that is not safe to be in, ride trans to.Certainly wasn’t true when I was growing up.

        1. Aaron Klein

          I remember the old New York well.We visited when I was nine. Public urination. A guy shooting up heroin on the sidewalk in Times Square. My mom feeling genuinely scared to be on the subway.I love the new New York.

          1. kenberger

            I deeply loved the old New York too. I remember the grit, and the genuine danger, in the 70s & 80s, even up till the early 90s.Sometimes today I miss “the edge” that has mostly disappeared. But you both are right: the new environment is well worth the tradeoff.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            You may live to see the danger return.

          3. awaldstein

            Not a chance Dave.

          4. kenberger

            ominous. hoping the last part isn’t true, but acknowledge the possibility.

          5. awaldstein

            Yup–I lived on Ave A and 2nd Street in a 5th floor walkup tenement in the mid 70s.Grit I know. Loved when fire escapes were outdoor space.Stuff changes and its’ all for the good.

          6. laurie kalmanson

            you probably walked by madonna on the street more than once

          7. awaldstein

            Most likely…Was a crazy, street immersed, kinda wonderful moment of life.

          8. laurie kalmanson

            television, talking heads, cbgb, danceteria, mudd club, the clash …

          9. awaldstein

            Funny–huge fan of Breaking Bad and while watching Walter last Sunday it finally dawned on me that the ‘Acid Chemist’ of the 60s/70s was of course Stanley Owsley and that they must have studied him.

          10. laurie kalmanson

            haven’t been tuned into breaking bad, but that’s a sly cultural reference to the koolaid acid test; related — watch out where the huskies go; don’t you eat that yellow snow

          11. awaldstein

            Astounding episodic storytelling.I envy you for the pleasure of discovering and experiencing this story.Have fun. A great great watch.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          It’s “good” or perhaps helpful is a better term – in having everyone experiencing the same problems, then everyone will be working on/towards and wanting the same solutions.

        3. bsoist

          We got to see our son’s new apartment in Manhattan yesterday for the first time and we were talking about how much safer the city is than it used to be. Makes parents of a 20 year old happy. πŸ™‚

        4. DoctorVP

          I used to take the 4 train to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx right by the high school and I have to say, even when I took the train at 2am in the toughest area on Fordam road, I still felt safe. So different than 10 years ago.

      3. ShanaC

        yes, though I still think of the Bronx as scary and huge. Still, I have friends now moving there….

        1. pointsnfigures

          had a friend’s daughter move to Bed-Sty. I remember that as a tougher neighborhood, but I am not a New Yorker so don’t really know.

          1. ShanaC

            all my friends have been moving there for years. The edges closer to williamsburg are already super expensive. If they want to go to the new-new cheap for students area : Ridgewood

          2. Emily Merkle

            Yep. Was sketch maybe 5-6 years ago, now it’s young and hipster. Not Williamsburg – annoying – hipster, though.

        2. Emily Merkle

          Right. Bed-Stuy was sketch just a few years ago. Now it’s young and hipster.

    3. LE

      “I want VC value-add in terms of characteristics and personal qualities.”Well first what is wrong with a VC that calls uber and/or “jumps” on his private jet?What’s wrong with people enjoying things earned or unearned?I could go on and on about how Fred has earned the right to a private jet, uber etc. But actually I don’t think it’s a crime for people to enjoy these things even if they haven’t earned it. (Like if they were born into it or if it’s their parents money etc.)And I don’t think it’s a badge of honor at all for someone to not enjoy those things either. Besides in the case of Fred he has a very nice expensive house and a vacation homes as well. What’s the big deal about uber.Now there are plenty of business reasons why you might not want to flaunt your wealth (and plenty of business reason actually why you might want to).Back when I was in my 20’s I had a really nice car and I purposely didn’t let my employees see the car. I didn’t want them to think we were making tons of money and then walk in and ask for a raise. So I never pulled up in front of the building with it. I know a guy who had an company with a union contract. He purposely didn’t buy the top BMW (which he could afford) he bought the 3 series. And I quote approximately “my union contract is coming up and if I get the 7 it’s going to kill my negotiating position”.Lastly, I can almost assure you that these kids growing up in the Bronx or Staten Island are very much impressed by signs of wealth and stature and seeing that actually gives them motivation to make and earn money. In their minds money does buy happiness. It doesn’t matter if it is correct but it’s what they think and it’s a driving force of motivation in many people. (Take General Motors product line and how a successful business was built on people’s rising aspirations as only one data point of this concept. (Chevy->Cadillac) etc.)

      1. LIAD

        great comment. i agree with all of it.i didn’t say anything is wrong with the jet etc, just that, i personally admire people who live simple, non-flash lives, despite the ability to do shows me depth of character and that their motivating factor is not ostentatious consumption

    4. takingpitches

      +1000 on the I took the subway, bus, jumped on a Citibike,

      1. laurie kalmanson

        mark twain was a riverboat pilot …

    5. laurie kalmanson

      subway/bus bonus: you get to look over people’s shoulders and see what devices they have and how they are using them

    6. Joseph Valente

      great point LIAD, it speaks to the culture of NYC as well. I live in australia but I noticed that when I got to NYC for the first time the city was built so that anyone from the barely literate immigrant to the well educated billionaire could always get around and live in the city. san francisco is the opposite. the transportation and navigation sucks and it creates a two tiered society of haves and have-nots which is alienating to visitors as well (especially guys like me who arrive with barely enough money to afford their airbnb rental).I later learnt that everything right down to the street naming, layout and design of NYC was actually done with this in mind by dewitt clinton back in the day. it is no accident and it is definitely what makes new york the world’s greatest city.

  8. JimHirshfield

    “Another wanted my job. I told him that it will be available by the time he’s ready for it.”+”…but it is also possible that some of these students will go right into the workforce after high school.”= You retiring in 3 years. πŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      no. i think my job takes a few more years of learning to master.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Which job? Blogger or VC? I think you’ve mastered both. And I was definitely joking about retiring. Don’t do it.

      2. Vineeth Kariappa

        more like decades πŸ™‚

      3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Ok Fred – but you’re getting close πŸ˜‰

      4. ShanaC


  9. William Mougayar

    “it is also possible that some of these students will go right into the workforce after high school.”I’m willing to bet that this option will probably be very tempting to many of them. When you’re 18, and you realize you can get a job for $45-50K because you can program well, instead of spending 4 years in college where you could be spending that much, you won’t think twice.And I’m sure some will have cooked-up a product and will want it funded. It’s scary the maturity and capabilities we are seeing now with young kids.

    1. Aaron Klein

      And ultimately, that will be a great accomplishment. Some times we forget that we don’t pursue education for a piece of paper, we pursue it for skills.Turning kids into productive taxpayers earlier should never be viewed as a failure.

      1. William Mougayar

        Right…and some that go to work can pursue a degree online via UniversityNow:

        1. Cam MacRae

          You could, but for that kind of coin you’d be better to get your computing degree from Goldsmiths, University of London.You’ve been able to do your degree via distance learning since 1858.And you’d be in good company — Ronald Coase started out that way. Mandela studied via correspondence while in prison.http://www.londoninternatio

          1. William Mougayar

            True. There must be some improvements over these other programs, I’m assuming.

      2. ShanaC

        I have mixed feelings about that. We should also be educating people to be human beings and citizens. Worker bees are something else.

        1. Aaron Klein

          We have kidded ourselves in believing that we need 17 to 21 years of education to accomplish that goal. Other countries haven’t tricked themselves into believing that.

    2. Joe Wilkinson

      Yes, and would rather have kids enticed to skip college because of opportunities creating, being productive, and doing something they enjoy than what are perhaps the other options

      1. LE

        “doing something they enjoy”If given a choice kids will always (because they are kids) choose what they enjoy over what is good for them long term. Unfortunately there needs to be less emphasis on the enjoyment part of choosing a career. To go along with baba’s thought in his comment sports is something that kids enjoy but it’s a terrible career path for most. A job is a way to earn income and survive. If you are lucky and make the right choices you will also might find something that you enjoy doing as well. But I’ve seen to many people doing nothing productive because they are still following some dream to be a musician, actor or they like golf etc. and they ignore economic realities of those choices. It’s called being a slacker. Same as taking “gut” course in college.

        1. Joe Wilkinson

          First, I think the point of what I was saying was missed. You see, kids do enjoy playing sports, and there is nothing wrong with that, but sure, going for a professional career in those areas has limited possibilities. So giving them something productive they can do which they also enjoy is a win in all possible ways.Second, there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying your work as you seem to imply, and no reason to force anyone to choose a less enjoyable path. Your work is the vast majority of your life, if the goal of your work is to allow you to “survive” through the other small percentage of your life as you say, you’re doing it wrong. Furthermore, I think you sadly give far too little credit to the ability and intelligence of kids. They are far smarter, and far more able to make the correct decision for themselves than you imply.

          1. LE

            Second, there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying your work as you seem to imply, and no reason to force anyone to choose a less enjoyable path.Well to start I enjoy what I do quite a bit to the point where I essentially work all the time and have a vacation place that I rarely use (was down 2 times over the past summer the rest it was vacant). Like anyone of course there are some things that I do job wise that I don’t like but most of the time it’s fun.That said in order to get to the place of “like what I do” I had to do many jobs that were undesirable on the way up (if you want to call it that). I didn’t start out thinking “oh I only want to do things that I enjoy”. And I had to make it through college and high school with the requisite courses which I didn’t enjoy. Like Astronomy which I hated. At my first business I cleaned the toilets and did every single job including many that I didn’t like. Every single job. Even after I had employees.If I started out thinking that I had to start with enjoyment every day in what I did I wouldn’t have gotten to that point possibly. Or if I thought certain jobs were “beneath me”. Guess what? When I was at Wharton there were probably not many people who graduated that cleaned toilets or ran machinery at a company they started (this was way way before the current entrepreneurship thing that is going on now). I did “lean” when Eric Ries was two years old.They are far smarter, and far more able to make the correct decision for themselves than you imply.While many are (hey I was) my experience has been that most aren’t. If they were (maybe the word is “mature” not “intelligence” though) they wouldn’t take drugs and/or smoke (two things I didn’t do by the way). Because they would think about the future and not just the current.One thing I can tell you for sure is if I was going through any of these high schools that Fred talks about the personality marker that I would look for as showing future potential is how much dedication someone has to working hard for the future as opposed to enjoyment now or within the next 10 years. Things lead to other things. You don’t always start out doing in the first 10 years after school the thing that is the enjoyable thing you will do for the rest of your life. It’s not about immediate gratification.

          2. Joe Wilkinson

            That’s fine that you took a certain route to get to where you are, and clearly it involved things you didn’t enjoy. That was all your choice.It is completely different from the main point though, which from your argument I assume you agree with. That a kid who can have a skill that is valuable to society, contribute immediately, and enjoy it, isn’t a bad thing.

    3. LE

      “And I’m sure some will have cooked-up a product and will want it funded.”Good for others but not a smart choice for the individual unfortunately.

      1. William Mougayar

        Why not? That is bound to happen, although it will probably be a small category.

        1. LE

          Because the chance of success is small and it sounds as if these kids don’t have the type of backstop that kids that are “white, wealthy, and entitled” have. (Not that that even changes my mind that much actually).I believe that people have to be realistic in what they try to achieve.Fred or Joanne can give seed money to a kid or 20 kids and it’s a drop in the bucket for them. But to the person who gets the money it’s not only time but missed opportunity at doing something that might have been a more realistic choice. Not that there aren’t benefits to working toward a goal and failing. But the most productive years someone can have will be right after school up into their 30’s. Make a mistake then and get on the wrong track or waste you time and it’s increasingly difficult to recover from that.Look for sure I could argue either side of this issue but as a generality I’m just not for the “take a gamble what do you have to lose” part because I feel you do have to lose.As an aside the business that I started right out of college was only to make the money to start the business that I really wanted to do. But it took me 9 years until I was finished with that business (and sold it and it’s still operating to this day). Point being is that after the 9 years things had changed (I had gotten married for one thing and the world was different). So the 9 years was significant. It worked out for me but luck was involved in that as well. One or two things happening differently and it might have been 9 wasted years. The difference was also significantly that I wasn’t spurred on by people throwing money at me so I had to be pretty sure that I was willing to do what I chose to do. And gave it some thought.People throwing investment money by the way bears some similarity to kids getting loans to college. The money makes it less likely perhaps that they think of the choice of major. Difference is the investment money you don’t even have to pay back.

    4. bsoist

      We seriously considered helping Billy, a kid who is certainly college material, strike out on his own when faced with the prospect of a quarter million dollars to pay for school. We decided on college, and I think we made the right call in his case, but it very nearly went the other way.

      1. William Mougayar

        One option that I’m not seeing too much of is the co-op program where the student works and learns in alternative semesters, and it makes the financial burden easier, while gaining real working experience. The U. of Waterloo excels at that.

        1. bsoist

          Instead U.S. schools promote internships which is free labor with the promise of making connections, getting your foot in the door, etc. No doubt that works out for some, but it’s always reminded me of potential clients who expect me to work for exposure instead of payment. Sure I do that when I want to or for friends, but don’t expect it. Internships seems like the same game to me – selling it to students as though it’s so great for them.Maybe I’m just too cynical. Yeah, I think that’s it.

          1. Anne Libby

            No, I think you’re sensible. Not cynical.Hopefully those who foot the 6-figure college bills feel comfortable voting on this at the university career management/recruiting offices where their kids are enrolled.Interesting recent article on unpaid internships struck me, especially the quote, “Work is not an exchange of gifts.”

          2. bsoist

            Good read. I remember seeing that a while back, but hadn’t taken the time to read it.I worked in radio and television many years ago, so I get the tradition and the culture of internship, I really do, but I think some traditions – like doctors working 24 hour shifts, for example – should be abandoned.My son has chosen a career that will rely on his creativity and skill at certain craft work. He has watched me work through the issues related to that kind of work, and fortunately that is one area where he has listened to my advice ( mostly ).These internship offers have struck him the way they strike me – as a way to be taken advantage of if you’re not careful. We took him to dinner Monday since we were in the city and he was debating an unpaid internship with us. There may clearly be advantages, but the downside is something to consider.

          3. Anne Libby

            It’s great that you’ve given your son this perspective, and he can talk this through with you guys. You’ve given him the gift of being able to perceive the boundaries. Good for all of you!Talking with young people in the NYC tech community, I feel that some have been trained to work for free, and/or undervalue their own work. I now have a list of young people who have told me stories about not having been paid as agreed. And they all kept working, for a period. Some never got paid. I’m not sure what happened with others.When you’re 22, you don’t recognize a company that’s in a death spiral. You think that you have to make nice, for your reputation’s sake.And, d’oh, you might be used to working for no pay, for the “connections” and “experience.”Sigh.

          4. bsoist

            That’s the thing. We definitely want him to gain the exposure and access, but only at a fair cost.

          5. Anne Libby

            I wish your son all the best with this…

          6. bsoist


  10. Mez Gebre

    I was born in Eritrea and lived in Sudan, Iraq, and Iran. By the time my mom brought us to the US I was ten. These sort of schools would of been amazing for me. This is a good thing, Fred. Back when I was in high school, I needed to go to a career center at a chance to learn coding. I can personally tell you it made it possible for me to change my situation. The key is self motivation for the kids. Even if just one kid takes this chance it makes everything worth it.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree mez. there are a lot of children of immigrants in both of these schools

  11. baba12

    I applaud these efforts and would say more of these should be in place. I believe that collectively as a society we have to get a handle on what is ailing public schools in large urban centers like NYC, not in Topeka Kansas or in Omaha Nebraska or in Pahrump NV would also state that it is time to let kids know in these urban centers that there are options other than professional sports for them to have a career that is fulfilling and rewarding. I am for the NFL’s, NBA’s etc to form their own minor leagues and recruit from there rather than from high schools and colleges where most of the kids who get into these programs never make it past the college and come out with no real skills besides having been a linebacker in a division 1,2,3 school.I am glad Fred (no longer known to me as Mr.Wilson) is doing his part.Money is not the equalizer in this equation, racism was made illegal by law in 1964, since then in a way education has been the basis of discrimination and unfortunately it affects more minorities who make up large populations in the urban centers and we see steady declines in public schools in these large urban centers.I am working with kids in Brownsville Brooklyn, trying to do my little share, while it may feel like it is pissing on a forest fire, but maybe if a lot of us piss on the fire it maybe equal to the firehose.

    1. Rob Underwood

      I think what you are doing is great. I think it is important we all do what we can to bring more program to more schools, help get more $$ committed to these efforts, demand more of our politicians and the DOE re CS edu, etc. But it also critical that we all each individually directly volunteer our tech skills, in school, as Fred is suggesting we do at BASE (and as many are now doing via TEALS). No better way to understand what is really needed in the schools.

    2. ShanaC

      what you are doing is great, but i think money has to be more equably divided and not coming from private sources (no offense fred). Some public schools are more than equal in NY. Some are less. The difference is the parents money and class

      1. Rob Underwood

        I generally agree with the sentiment that “some public schools are more than equal in NY” due to issues of parental money (and overall involvement). Because of this, I think it’s important to explore how different political and community structures can be used to identify schools (and community groups) that are interested in CS programs and may, for whatever reason, get less attention than other nearby schools. In my case I’ve been active in exploring how my local community board (Brooklyn 6) and District/CEC (13) can become vehicles to match programs (and, potentially, funding) with schools in order to address the issue of (dis-)advantage and privilege. We also need to double-down on focusing volunteer efforts on neighborhoods and communities throughout the 5 boros, including (but only only) the Bronx, parts of eastern and southern Queens, upper Manhattan, central and eastern Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

      2. LE

        but i think money has to be more equably divided and not coming from private sources (no offense fred).Under capitalism (at least the way I define it) it doesn’t work that way. Having money allows you to have influence to make things more like the way you see fit. The idea isn’t that you take more money from “a Fred” and divide it equitably for the good of society (that’s taxation).What you are saying is money should come from everybody and that it should be divided so all have an equal choice. But real life doesn’t work that way. Some will have more opportunity than others.The good news is that someone like Fred is willing to put a small dent in a system and offer opportunity to those that wouldn’t have it without his involvement. Who can argue that that isn’t great?The difference is the parents money and classNo great surprise that those that know how to or are able to work the system get more out of life. That’s been going on since the beginning of time. A system like that also provides motivation for many “have nots” to pull themselves out of poverty by overcoming adversity. Especially in this country.By the way things are fairer now then they have ever been in the US history. My dad or Arnold’s father had a much more difficult time when they came to this country than any kid growing up today would have. A few of my cousins grew up without a father in a small cramped house and they are both quite successful now specifically because of the lack of opportunity they had growing up. It gave them something to reach for.

        1. ShanaC

          public schools are not a capitalist formation. Not everything has to be capitalist for the sake of the public good.

    3. Dave W Baldwin

      Enlarging the number of pissers can’t hurt anything…

    4. fredwilson

      yesssssss. you called me fred!

  12. Richard

    These kids will be voting in < 4 years. There is a lot to learn in high school, particularly if college become less relevant. Lets open up high school curriculums and start collecting data to see what works.

  13. Richard

    Hats off to all the bus drivers out there.

  14. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Fred – I found myself wondering if some of these young, not “white, wealthy, and entitled” students ever end up reading a follow up blog-post of yours like this one. (If that’s you just say hi !).That lead me to wonder, whether you tell them about your blog (especially those, after your job or looking to startup). If not, in my view, you should.Any young person looking to start up a company should engage here (and at ). No – strike that “young”. I have learned enormously not just from you but from other contributors also – and anyone who comes here and denies that is being “economical with the truth” πŸ™‚

    1. William Mougayar

      thanks for the shout out James πŸ™‚

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        The advantage of your tragetted newsfeed network, is that amongst the good and bad there must be SUM value πŸ˜‰

    2. fredwilson

      i have told them about it

  15. Rob Underwood

    First, congrats on’s 10th anniversary and thank you for hosting such a fun event last night.Second, thank you for your continued and inspired leadership on bringing more tech and CS education into our schools. “It is happening” in NYC now — CS programs are expanding, tech and non-tech folks alike are volunteering, and students are benefiting. AFSE, BASE, TEALS,, CodeNOW, iMentor, CoderDojo, GirlsWhoCode, CoderDojo, BlackGirlsCode, InnovateNYC Schools, StartupBox, ScriptEd, NFTE, First Lego League, Citizen Schools, etc. — the list is long, growing daily, and shows that we don’t necessarily need a “one size fits all approach” for all kids and all schools, but instead a hybrid approach that gives us the flexibility to provide options to students, across boros, from Pre-K to Post-HS across the city. Thanks for helping show the way!

  16. LoisaidaSam

    Excellent post Fred, very inspiring. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a way to volunteer in a relevant an meaningful way and I think you nailed it – I just completed the application.

  17. DoctorVP

    Fred, It’s so interesting the location of the school. I have treated many kids that attended Grace Hopper when I worked in the emergency department at St. Barnabas Hospital. Most of the kids that came in suffered injuries from fights. I asked a few of them when I was stitching them up why they ended up fighting. Their response was they had nothing else to do. They seemed bored. Even though many of them were quite intelligent. It’s so fantastic that BASE will be in a part of NYC that desperately needs to inspire their youth and community.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      if that nearby hospital could show them the rewards of medical work …

  18. Dean

    Fred, thank you for helping promote a great model. I’d love to learn more about the actual curriculum, but I couldn’t find any more detail on the website. It would be interesting to see how they scaffold/personalize the learning.

    1. Leigh Sudol-DeLyser

      Dean – I am the CS consultant for AFSE and can chat about the curriculum. My email is l a d e l y s e r at

  19. aseoconnor

    Do you know if Fordham has partnered at all with them? The math department has a robotics program and club that may be a perfect fit for collaboration.

    1. fredwilson

      it is something we are working on. great minds think alike.

      1. aseoconnor


  20. Rob Underwood

    Thank you for hosting the 10th anniversary party last night. Great time.On the topic of BASE (and AFSE), thank you for the continued, inspired leadership in bringing tech education and CS into more NYC schools. “It is happening” – more programs are coming to more schools, more people – both tech and non-tech – are volunteering, and our kids are benefiting. AFSE, BASE, TEALS,, CodeNOW, iMentor, CoderDojo, GirlsWhoCode, BlackGirlsCode, Innovate NYC Schools, NFTE, Citizen Schools, First Lego League — the list grows every day. The diversity of these efforts proves we need not apply a “one size fits all” approach across the city, and instead are better off with a “big tent” hybrid approach that will bring CS to every child across all 5 boros.A next critical to-do will be to improve our teacher training. This takes two forms (at least): that which provides skills and resources to current teachers who want to do more CS in their classrooms, as well as that which brings classroom management, lesson planning, curriculum development, etc. skills to CS and other tech workers who want to spend some time – either a couple hours or a couple years – in the classroom.One idea may be to take many of the amazing ideas out there on how to teach CS (e.g., best practices, curricula, lessons places etc.), create a GitHub repository, and start collaborating across schools and programs to provide an open source tool box for teachers (and CS volunteers) to access, fork, branch, contribute to, etc. (Could also be an opportunity to improve the “crosswalks” between existing CS standards and evolving Common Core developments). Anyone want to work on this with me?(A great list of many of the amazing programs working on CS eduction in NYC schools is here:…. No surprise that Fred has had a hand in helping out many of these efforts).

  21. Emily Merkle

    It is good for the soul to volunteer to work with those that carry great promise and desire, but could benefit greatly from a helping hand. I volunteer weekly at the local animal control shelter. The shelter’s a government agency and has a very restricted budget. The volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization. We nurture the animals and help find them loving homes.Don’t underestimate the value you can add simply by paying it forward.

  22. Dan Epstein

    Fred (and AVC community), do you think it’s possible we’ll have more engineers than jobs for engineers in the next 10 or 20 years? If so, what is the next “engineer”?

    1. Emily Merkle

      Engineering is not an education or vocation; it’s a way of seeing the world from varying perspectives. The challenge is to identify the issues of today and tomorrow than need tackling, and build efficient and effective teams to address them, be it think tanks or Media Labs.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Ironically, they have found the lots of folks that get STEM degrees leave the STEM professions and do other things within a couple of years.

        1. Emily Merkle

          …as that skill set and education is eminently transferable. Nice anecdote.

  23. Bartley Ridge

    Keep functioning ,remarkable job!

  24. andyidsinga

    BASE appears to be a public school? ..if so, that is awesome. Is it a charter or magnet or something else?

    1. fredwilson

      nope, just a regular public high school

  25. SteveS

    +1 for iMentor and a big tip o’ the hat to Fred for highlighting the program. After a year mentoring an amazing student at AFSE I can vouch for it being a first class program. The blend of technology support for mentors & mentees + fabulous staff + engaged schools makes it easy to have a positive impact on someone’s life – and the time is manageable. Its been a blast. Sign up! Tell a friend. Tell two.

  26. Larry Velez

    This is amazing! As someone who was born and raised in The Bronx and then made my way through the early startup scene in NYC (Pseudo, Alltrue, et al.) I think the biggest lesson these kids can learn is how to network among themselves, lift each other up to build solutions that shine brighter than their surroundings. If they are to compete with HBS and Stanford grads at the highest levels of this game, they need to be like Mariano Rivera and be so undeniably better that it does not matter where they came from.I look forward to trying to help BASE through iMentor or otherwise.Thanks Fred for going up there. There has to be some value to being 50 feet from the wealthiest island in the world and I think The Bronx can learn to tap that value.