Through Apps Academy, high school students receive hands on training in creating digital programs and apps while engaging with cultural histories of East and West Harlem, to prepare them for careers within the global digital economy. This is an arts-based technology project celebrating the heritage of the youth trainees. It further complements and strengthens their research capacity while engaging in a community empowerment project. Apps Academy is a program of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI).

The program:

  • Trains 20-25 high school students annually in web design, web hosting and maintenance; apps development and publishing; multimedia and digital production; business entrepreneurship and social media advertising strategy.

  • Immerses participants in cultural research, archival and historical documentation.  

  • Strengthens skills in digital art making, writing and digital communications.

  • Exposes youth to social justice issues, such as inequality and gentrification.

  • Provides inter-generational mentorship with established technology business leaders.

  • Hires student alumni as assistant trainers for each successive cohort.

  • Incorporates training in project management and teamwork.

  • Emphasizes “real-world” communication - such as public speaking skills - as much as it focuses on virtual communication.

The pilot launched in 2014 with support from Rockefeller Foundation and Harlem Community Development Corporation. Participants learned to develop the augmented reality app for CCCADI’s Mi Querido Barrio (MQB) project, digitally landmarking East Harlem’s rich history and cultural legacy. The pilot concluded with a PitchFest and public ceremony at My Image Studios (MIST) in Harlem, covered by the Amsterdam News. The MQB app garnered accolades from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

This year, the Apps Academy was held in conjunction with CUNY’s Grove School of Engineering.  Twenty students collaborated in design teams on a project entitled “She-roes and He-roes of Harlem History”, guided by expert program leaders and mentors from Google, Microsoft, Columbia University’s Digital Publications Department, CUNY’s Grove School and their Branded and Integrated Communications Program. Students researched Harlem cultural figures who have meaning to them and then developed interactive multimedia augments (in audio, video, web page and digital photo formats). The augments were presented as a virtual exhibition at the Grove School’s Exhibition Room - and will be mounted along 125th Street from 7th to 5th Avenue as Points-of-Interest (POI’s) that will be viewed by using an upgraded version of the CCCADI/MQB smartphone app. Based upon the program’s success, Apps Academy will now serve as a pipeline for STEM students who apply to City College. Working with the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program of the Department of Education (DOE), students will be recruited from the following schools:

  1. Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology

  2. Academy for Software Engineering

  3. Bronx Academy for Software Engineering

  4. Frederick Douglass Academy

  5. The Young Women’s Leadership Academy

In 2016, CCCADI will offer Apps Academy at City College through a summer training series and a Saturday school-year series, providing more East Harlem youth with an opportunity to achieve in the global digital economy.