TAF’s Trish Millines Dziko to be honored at the 2018 Crosscut Courage Awards
Last month, Crosscut announced its 2018 Crosscut Courage Award winners. This year, TAF’s Cofounder and Executive Director Trish Millines Dziko is among them, receiving the Courage in Tech award for her commitment and service to providing underserved students with opportunities to gain critical tech and STEM skills through public education.
Tech and the blatant inequity of access to it is what initially drove Trish to found Technology Access Foundation in 1996. At that time, she wasn’t doing too bad for herself. Being a black female software engineer and manager at Microsoft during the rise of the dot com era was surely an accomplishment in itself. But, she also recognized the scarcity of her reality for others who looked like her and understood that people of color working within tech at companies like Microsoft was an “against all odds” sort of concept. That was hard for her to accept. Knowing that the constructs of public education, the implications of neighborhood demographics and income on access to opportunity, and current accepted norms was a hard pill to swallow – and Trish knew something had to be done about it.
Almost twenty-two years and 19,000 students impacted later, Trish has successfully penetrated the STEM industry and public education system in Washington State.
Almost twenty-two years and 19,000 students impacted later, Trish has successfully penetrated the STEM industry and public education system in Washington State. First by teaching kids of color coding skills and helping them land tech internships, and now, by co-managing the award-winning neighborhood 6-12th-grade public school TAF@Saghalie, partnering with existing schools, and empowering teachers of color to advocate for students. And by the way, all of the schools within TAF’s portfolio serve students where more than half qualify for free or reduced lunch and identify as a person of color. Trish has never strayed from her vision.
She’s developed a leading nonprofit organization that continues to expand its reach among students and teachers. In fact, just in the past few months TAF has hired an additional 11 employees to keep up with its rapid growth. This coming year will be the first step of building an entire STEM region within the Federal Way Public Schools district, where three elementary schools feeding into TAF@Saghalie will adopt the STEMbyTAF academic model. Essentially, students will have access to STEM and industry experiences from kindergarten through high school graduation. By that time, graduates should have a clear plan on how they intend to penetrate the industry themselves, supported by a network of professional mentors and staff.
Trish likes to think of TAF as a launching pad where students, teachers and even staff get their wings. In fact, last year’s Courage in Tech winner was former TAF Program Manager David Harris. And, while she generally tries to shy away from the spotlight, she is hopeful that her “TAF babies” will also be bold and innovative risk-takers who are able to take the spotlight and help pave the way for others as she has done thus far.