Future Edge
Capital One

Xavian Barnes didn't know quite what to expect when he prepared to help set a world record.

The 15-year-old recently finished his freshman year at the NAF Academy of Finance at the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy (IDEA) in Dallas. Despite his love of technology, he was a little apprehensive to learn coding and had never worked with Artificial Intelligence (AI) before he and 800 other local high school students took part in Basic TrAIning: Bot Camp, a one-day training session that Guinness World Records certified as the largest AI programming lesson.

The event, hosted by Capital One, was meant to teach students the basics of the Python coding language, get them excited about the possibility of a future in tech and give them a hands-on experience by creating a program of their own.

Xavian's apprehension quickly disappeared when he and the other students set about creating a chat bot that would respond in the same way as their favorite celebrity. His choice was NFL star Marshawn Lynch. When Xavian and his classmate got the bot to sound like the football player, it was a breakthrough moment. "We were surprised it actually worked," Xavian says. "It seems like creating it, you'd need a lot of numbers and a lot of coding. But it went way faster."

As soon as the bot was up and running, Xavian started to think about what he could do next.

"I was able to talk to my mentors at school about it," he says. Xavian's teachers were more than happy to oblige his curiosity. When he goes back to school in the fall, they'll take his newfound interest in AI and encourage him to discover all the things he can create with a foundation in computer science.

Capital One

The record-breaking event is just the beginning. Over the next three years, Capital One wants to bring Basic TrAIning to more than 10,000 students.

Through its Future Edge program, Capital One is helping teens discover not only a passion for technology, but also the foundational skills they might need for a potential career in the field.

This initiative comes to life through programs like Capital One Coders. Since 2014, more than 11,000 students have been impacted by this program, inspiring students to recognize their potential as technologists by exploring the basics of coding alongside Capital One associates.

Capital One sought to further close the digital skills gap in high-demand areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Basic TrAIning program came out of conversations the company's leadership team had with its non-profit partners. Capital One uncovered a significant opportunity to provide students with training in AI and machine learning while simultaneously filling a void in the curriculum of schools they worked with. Local educational institutions often struggle to keep pace with ever-evolving tech standards and innovations. So, Capital One partnered with Major League Hacking to create a curriculum that would educate, inspire and help students demystify the world of AI.

"We did an initial study looking at some of the statistics across the nation, related to workforce and workforce training," says Monica Shortino, Director of Social Innovation at Capital One. "Part of what we found was that 8 out of 10 jobs require digital skills. For our students to be successful, they needed these digital skills. And with AI being such a growing field, our end goal is to equip these students for the jobs of tomorrow."

Capital One

Their program has already helped transform the perspective of students with their relationship to technology.

"When we piloted the program at the Boys and Girls Club, I remember one student saying, 'I don't know if this is my thing,'" Shortino said. "He was the one that ended up putting in the most hours wanting to stay late to tinker."

"That's the hope we have for all of the students coming into the program," she added. "Maybe they're a little leery in the beginning. But they're super excited by the end."

For Major League Hacking Co-founder Jon Gottfried, the importance of the program can't be overstated. A self-taught programmer who now works to empower student hackers from all backgrounds, Gottfried wants the emerging software developers of today to become the tech leaders of tomorrow. And that requires making tech accessible to all, without fear or judgment.

"Part of why we created Major League Hacking was to give more people access to those resources and create a community around it that reinforces people's love of building technology without the negative aspects of being graded on it or being in an environment that's unfamiliar," he says. "The workshops and programs that we do are designed to create a really positive space for people to learn."

It's something that Gottfried wishes he and others like him had been encouraged to learn when they were teens. "There is so much potential for technology as a path to upward mobility," he says. "And the more people and the more perspectives that are contributing to that, the better."

Capital One

The future couldn't be any brighter for Xavian and the other students that participated in Basic TrAIning: Bot Camp. Their training may have only lasted one day, but it will stay with them forever. And it'll soon be a launching pad for thousands of others like them, providing the skills necessary to see themselves as competent, confident and capable in an ever-changing digital landscape.

"I would recommend it to my friends," Xavian says, even though he didn't know if he'd like coding at first. The emphasis on doing has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for him. He's already thinking about studying AI in college. "It's an exciting experience," he says.

Future Edge
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Capital One
Capital One

In 2015, Skye Adrian became homeless. 19-years-old, gay and a recent New York City immigrant, he had no one to count on for support.

Skye AdrianCapital One

Until four years ago, Skye lived on the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, which began to feel less and less safe for him due to the anti-LGBTQ laws that govern the country. Being a gay man in Jamaica is criminalized and can carry a jail sentence. For Skye, that was no way to live.

"I was tired of trying to be who I wasn't," he says. "I was tired of trying to change myself. I was tired of having to always watch my back just because of how I am—how I walk, how I talk, how I dress."

So Skye moved to New York City. He'd expected to live with family, but that quickly became a challenging situation. When he found himself homeless, he didn't want to go to a shelter because of the stigmas and stereotypes associated with living in one. Skye tried couch-surfing with a friend, but that arrangement became impossible quickly.

"Maybe a week or two of staying with my friend, he texted me that if I don't have sex with him or his friend, then I wouldn't be able to stay there," Skye says.

Unfortunately, this type of exploitation isn't uncommon. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, LGBTQ homeless youth are more likely than their straight counterparts to be forced to exchange sex for a place to sleep. More than 58% of homeless LGBTQ youth have been sexually victimized.

Skye knew he had to get out of his situation, but his worries about a shelter weren't unfounded. Many homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ have been mistreated at traditional homeless shelters—especially if those shelters are primarily geared towards adults.

Skye needed help, and the Ali Forney Center (AFC) was there for him.

The Ali Forney CenterCapital One

AFC is a different type of shelter system. Founded in 2002 in memory of a homeless gender non-conforming youth who sought justice for his peers, AFC was created to keep LGBTQ kids on the street safe, give them the tools they needed to thrive, and provide medical, psychological, and case management services. It's now the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless LGBTQ youth.

"The idea was to open a shelter that was LGBTQ supportive," says Alex Roque, AFC's Director of Development. "We opened in the basement of a church with six cots. Our first night, we had 20 young people waiting for those six beds, and within a very short period of time, it became 100 young people waiting for those six beds. Within about six months we'd seen about 1,000 young people trying to get into those six beds."

Today, AFC has 19 locations throughout New York City. It helps more than 1,400 teens a year, and operates a drop-in shelter that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year that serves as a point of entry for any LGBTQ youth looking for support. For teens that don't have a safe place to sleep, the center isn't just a beacon—it's a lifesaver.

"LGBTQ young people are eight times more likely to be homeless than non-LGBTQ young people," Roque says. "Once homeless, LGBTQ youth are also eight times more likely to experience violence in the streets. They are also more likely to experience substance abuse and HIV infection as well as suicidal ideation."

When Skye came in for an intake interview at AFC, his fears lessened.

The Ali Forney CenterCapital One

From his first moments at AFC in Harlem, he knew he would be taken care of. He was immediately put at ease by AFC's commitment to justice for LGBTQ youth, and the services he was offered quickly made him feel safer than he had felt in a long time. "It was a beautiful experience," he says.

During his first visit, Skye was connected to a case manager who assessed his needs. His case manager also worked with Skye to help him find housing, legal aid, and work. There was also a medical clinic on-site, so Skye knew exactly where he could go if he needed to see a doctor or speak to a counselor about his mental health.

When Skye needed support concerning his rights as an immigrant, AFC had a representative from the Urban Justice Center come in to help. And through his involvement with AFC's Learning, Employment, Advancement, and Placement program (LEAP), Skye gained valuable job and networking skills, all while being paid for his participation.

"One of the major issues for an immigrant is a consistent or steady source of income," Skye says. "That's not necessarily a reality for most immigrants. The center made that a reality for me."

AFC's partnership with Capital One is helping create that reality for more and more of its clients.

An event at The Ali Forney CenterCapital One

LEAP is made possible through AFC's work with several state agencies and Capital One's Future Edge initiative, which bridges the gaps between underserved communities and technology—helping people master the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. The LEAP program, Alex Roque says, is perhaps AFC's most concrete response to homelessness.

He adds: "A lot of the work that we do is stabilizing, helping to heal, addressing trauma, addressing substance abuse; but no other program that we offer is really focusing directly on building skills towards [helping clients gain] the independence they would like for themselves."

Capital One provides financial support for LEAP and their associates volunteer directly with AFC clients. "The Capital One partnership specifically supports the financial literacy, financial mobility, financial engagement and financial development of our young people," Roque says.

"The program includes helping our young people understand what opening a bank account means, helping young people understand what budgeting means, and what establishing credit means and why it's important."

These are things that a parent or other caregiver might teach a child. For the clients who may not have any connection to their parents or the community they left behind, AFC takes on that responsibility.

"It goes beyond a company or a corporate identity, it's representing humanity in a very human way," Roque says. "Volunteers from all walks of life connect with our young people, talk to our young people, are part of their lives, and don't want anything from them except to help them succeed."

For Skye, the support he received has been life-changing. Now 23, he's devoting his career to ensuring that future generations of LGBTQ youth don't have to fight for help the way that he did.

Skye Adrian and Alex RoqueCapital One

Today, Skye is a policy consultant with New York City's Youth Action Board, a position he was appointed to based on the advocacy work he began at AFC. This position has allowed him to speak about his experience as a homeless youth, fight for the rights of his peers, and work on creating policies that will alleviate the strife that homeless youth face.

This year, Skye has also started his training in aircraft operations. It's something he says would never have been possible if he hadn't worked with AFC.

As he looks toward his future, he's committed to making the world a safer place for all LGBTQ youth, especially those who are experiencing homelessness.

"Homelessness doesn't define someone's capability," Skye says.

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