“Pay it forward” seems to be the motto by which Per Scholas CEO, Plinio Ayala, lives.
Plinio grew up in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City during the “Bronx is Burning” era of the 1970s. Access to training or education opportunities that allowed talented and driven individuals to succeed was almost impossible to come by. But, Plinio got lucky. “I was fortunate to be noticed by an English teacher who saw my potential and supported me into the Better Chance Program that let me attend the Collegiate School in Manhattan on a scholarship. It is because of that opportunity that I am here today, and I have dedicated my career to supporting others so that they have the same chances that I did.”
Founded in the South Bronx, NY in 1994 Per Scholas was established by two corporate IT professionals who collectively believed in the transformational power of technology. They recognized one of the main causes of the digital divide was the inability for public schools in underserved neighborhoods to afford personal computers to teach basic hardware and software skills to children in the community.
Early on, Per Scholas partnered with corporations in the five boroughs to recycle and refurbish computers, donating them to schools that could benefit from the additional technology. They hired local community members from the Bronx and taught them the skills to refurbish the computers themselves. But, after a few months on the job, their newly-trained employees left to take higher-paying jobs in the private sector.
Plinio recalls, “At first we were frustrated by the loss of our newly trained staff, but our leadership quickly recognized a major workforce development opportunity and an answer to the skill gap that they had heard echoed by employer partners.”
And with that, the Per Scholas of today was born. The nonprofit bridges the digital divide by equipping motivated and curious individuals from underserved communities with the technical and business skills to launch successful careers in technology.
To date, Per Scholas has helped open doors for more than 9,000 individuals. By 2023, Per Scholas expects to train 4,000 students each year at its current sites while also expanding new operations in additional cities.
Recognizing the incredible work Per Scholas is doing as a Trailblazer in their community to create equality in the workplace, Salesforce.org has announced a grant of $500,000 to the nonprofit during this week's World Tour Boston. This grant will help Per Scholas expansion into Boston, filling an essential need in the region as tech employers struggle to find qualified candidates to fill open positions.
Read the Q&A with Per Scholas CEO, Plinio Ayala to learn more about their work and partnership with Salesforce.