BRONX, NY (February 2, 2015) — Six students from the Bronx Academy of Promise Charter School who beat out 350 other schools in a contest to build a math app are featured in a Verizon commercial throughout February in honor of Black History Month.
Two Covenant ministers helped start the school. Michael Carrion, pastor of Promised Land Covenant Church, was the founding chair and current superintendent. Ruben Austria was a pastor at PLCC but now operates his own nonprofit and is connected to Metro Hope Covenant Church. Carrion and Austria designed the white paper and developed the vision of the South Bronx school.
Verizon sponsored the contest, which the six students won in 2013, when most of them were 11 years old. The contest encouraged students to learn computer code and develop applications for mobile devices.
“Can any good thing come out of the South Bronx?” Carrion asked. “Yes it can! This was missio dei for our ministry team—part of why we started Promised Land Covenant Church. There are a lot of reasons why these kids should not have achieved this great accomplishment, but God is still doing miracles and these kids were determined to overcome any obstacle.”
Located in one of New York’s most under-served communities, the school had only two computers per classroom at the time of the competition. To design the app, students had to borrow their teachers’ mobile devices.
“I doubted that we would win. It was a long shot,” one of the students, Rokiatou “Rokia” Sissoko, told a local media outlet. “And when I found out that we won, I was happy because all of the work that we did—staying after school, coming to school early.”
Players must use basic math skills to progress from level to level through the app called Quest Math, which is based on Greek mythology. It is available on Google Play.
The students say they now have a greater desire to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, where people of color make up less than 10 percent of the workforce, according to Verizon.
Each student was awarded a Samsung Galaxy Tablet, and the Bronx Academy of Promise won $20,000. The students also star in a Verizon campaign that will run all month, in which they make this point: “We can’t sit back and watch history, we have to create it.”