Teion Ensley-Ellerbe is a senior at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. For the third year in a row, Teion is participating in the Urban Apps and Maps program at Temple University. Established in 2012, the program started as an initiative that stemmed from Temple’s bITS program, which stands for building information technology skills. Since then, it has gone on to develop community partnerships with local organizations such as the Philadelphia Youth Network and has received grants from the Knight Foundation and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The program encourages interdisciplinary collaboration with the goal of driving urban innovation through digital technology.
Specifically, the program aims to teach technology, design, and business reasoning to underserved and minority students in Philadelphia, and challenges them to come up with ideas on how to solve community problems through the use of these newly acquired skills.
In an interview, Teion shared how he first became involved in the program, learning about it during his sophomore year as an internship opportunity. “My teachers saw that I liked to do computer stuff so they [suggested it]… I ended up doing it for all of sophomore year and coming in on Saturdays, because I really liked what I was doing.” Since then, Teion has participated in consecutive summer sessions as well as during his junior and senior years. This level of participation is quite common for the program as year after year, many students return for the chance to improve their technology skills and contribute to other community development projects. Recently, Teion was involved in developing the GOTCHA app, which was featured in the Philadelphia Tribune. The app is a crime-monitoring mobile application that allows users to tag and share information on areas of high crime activity. This project is one of nine active projects that are ongoing within the Apps and Maps program.
In addition to previous objectives, this year, a new focus area was created that builds on the urban fieldwork that is part of the program. Using information technology, students were asked to document and study urban street art to consider how these displays fit within a larger social discourse. Students had the opportunity to learn from visiting guest lecturers from a number of different fields such as English, urban studies, graphic design, and media studies.
Even though he plans to major in psychology, Teion understands the importance of technology and intends to incorporate some of the skills he learned into his future work. When asked if he has been able to utilize these skills outside of the program, Teion mentioned an independent web design project that he is working on with a local barbershop. “Ever since I started that one, and I’ve been showing people what I have been doing so far, I’ve been getting a lot of other [paid job] offers.” As Teion puts it, “Technology is the wave of the future, and it’s not going to go anywhere so the quicker you jump onboard, the more set you’ll be later.”