Black IT pros give back



News Analysis

By Jerry Freeman

MSR Senior Editor


Irwin Sylvah (l) and Emmaly Manchanthasouk Photo courtesy of BDPA
Irwin Sylvah (l) and Emmaly Manchanthasouk
Photo courtesy of BDPA


Lots of people talk about “giving back,” “reaching back,” “paying it forward,” all expressions of how important it is that those who have been fortunate return the favor to others. That principle is alive and well at the local chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA), which is showing the rest of the Twin Cities what it really means to extend a helping hand to the next generation. BDPA has been quietly and steadily doing just that for the past eight years.

An eighth annual award ceremony, held January 4 at the Downtown Radisson, was an opportunity for BDPA staff and volunteers to show off the fruits of their 2012 labors: a new cadre of students who, thanks to the program, have come closer to entering professional careers in the field of information technology. Most of us with a few years under our belts remember the so-called “nerds” of our high school days with plastic pocket protectors lined with multicolored pens who wore slide rules (now very obsolete) holstered on their belts and made the rest of us look bad on math and science tests.

Well, the day of the “nerds” is surely at hand. They are now the computer-savvy professionals who drive our high-tech world, who have no problem finding well-paying work, and who will likely lead the employment sector for decades to come. These are the people the rest of us now depend on to keep our home and office computers and networks functioning so we can do our work. IT expertise now creates and maintains the basic information and communication platforms we all stand on.

What could be more important than ensuring that the next generation of African American youth takes all possible advantage of this rewarding career opportunity? Who could better prepare them to do so than those Black professionals who have already beat the odds to excel in the IT field and who know what that success requires? Therein lies the magic of BDPA.

Two alumni of the program served as award ceremony co-emcees — Emmaly Manchanthasouk, a junior at the University of St. Thomas, and Irwin Sylvah, a junior at the U of M-Crookston — and did so with vitality and cheerful high spirits. Following a keynote address by Bauch+Lomb business executive Javonté Anyabwelé, an audience of proud parents and IT professionals were introduced to participants in the 2012 High School Technology Program (HSTP) Levels I, II and III (the latter identified as “hard-core programmers”).

The students spoke about how difficult it was for them initially to devote the time and energy BDPA required of them and how they came to realize that the time and energy was well spent. Many have already won scholarships and found internships that would not have been available to them otherwise. Some were even selected to travel to Baltimore, Maryland last August for the National High School Computer Competition.

Congratulations to the BDPA board of directors, volunteer professionals and corporate sponsors Xcel Energy, Medtronic and the Minnesota Twins for attracting more youth of color into IT professions and helping more of them find successful careers in the corporate workplace.


Jerry Freeman welcomes reader responses to


More photo’s from the event:

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