INIT, a tech nonprofit empowering underserved communities, launches in South Florida

By Krysten Brenlla

Tech education and development is now available for all Miamians, with the help of a newly launched nonprofit that aims to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities.

Meet INIT, which was founded by the student and alumni leaders behind the hugely successful Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) organization at Florida International University and funded by the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation and Lab22c. INIT aims to empower underserved communities and students to launch successful careers in tech. Since launching through UPE in 2014, the student and alumni leaders behind INIT have impacted more than 4,000 students, while creating a diverse talent pipeline between local schools and top companies like Google, Microsoft, Meta, and others.

Students can get involved in INIT through the organization’s established chapters across South Florida universities, such as Florida International University, Miami Dade College, and Florida Memorial University. Their ultimate goal is to scale their program model to all South Florida universities and local municipalities such as the City of Miami, to inspire students and community members to learn and understand what career opportunities are available in tech, such as computer programming or product management, while providing free experiential learning.

“Through what we built at FIU’s UPE in 2014, we saw a lot of people from other schools and organizations attending our events to learn new skills in tech while exploring the field,” said Cesar Villa-Garcia, co-founder of INIT and a former product manager at Microsoft. “We wanted to create INIT to scale these different programs to schools across Miami, as well as to underserved communities, and community members who are just interested in learning more.”

Cesar Villa-Garcia, co-founder of INIT


Through INIT programming and workshops, members can explore new areas in tech, such as artificial intelligence (including new AI tools like ChatGPT), machine learning, website development, mobile/app software development, and more. The nonprofit also offers career development workshops to its members, where members can learn about the different career opportunities in tech, and how to land a dream job.

“We’ve learned that people don’t really know what career opportunities exist in tech, especially local opportunities right here in Miami,” Villa-Garcia said. “We’re bringing awareness to different career paths, like product manager, UIUX designer, or cloud engineer, while helping members understand how to get there.”

Through its robust alumni network, which includes more than 1,500 alumni in the industry, INIT chapters will provide free mentorship opportunities, interview tips, and resume workshops to members – all with the goal of landing local talent in tech opportunities across South Florida and the country.

“We want our programs and workshops to spark people’s curiosity in tech the minute they walk in,” Villa-Garcia said. “We really want to ensure that Miamians don’t get left behind in the tech movement. It takes a village to make a big impact, and we want to be a part of it.”

Other INIT programs include ShellHacks, the largest hackathon in Florida that brings together more than 1,500 students every year, and INIT Ignite, a volunteer-based program in which chapter members visit local middle and high schools to teach students the fundamentals of computer science and coding, while also introducing them to the field of tech.

“We hope that through local university chapters, which will be managed by that specific university’s student leaders, and city chapters, we’ll get to see even more volunteers, hackathon programs, career development workshops, and tech education across the board,” Villa-Garcia continued. “Through INIT, we want to help build communities that are lacking that culture and sense of belonging and help them land their dream jobs in this incredible industry.”


INIT has officially launched in Florida International University, and is set to launch in Miami Dade College and Florida Memorial University in the 2023 fall semester. The City of Miami INIT chapter is set to launch in 2024 In addition to Villa-Garcia, the other INIT co-founders are Yasmine Abdrabo, Jose Maldonado, Sabina Cartacio, Christopher Rodriguez and Andy Garcia. Julieta Vallejos is INIT’s executive director.

And, if you’re looking to learn more about INIT, meet the founders, or just find your tech community, they are hosting a launch event this Tuesday, May 9, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Bay 13 Brewery.

“At INIT, we have a goal of creating systemic changes while generating new cultures, and inspiring new generations into the tech industry,” Villa-Garcia continued. “By targeting different parts of the pipeline through education and opportunity, our hope is that, in 5-10 years, the industry will look brighter.”

To learn more about INIT’s programming, board members, and upcoming events, visit their website here and follow them on Instagram.

UPDATE: At the launch event, the Knight Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to help INIT chapters across South Florida develop local tech talent. 

These photos throughout this post of the INIT chapter at FIU were provided by Cesar Villa-Garcia
INIT’s executive board: From L to R: Andy Garcia, board member and INIT FIU chapter president; Jose Maldonado, INIT board member and software engineer at Xbox; Sabina Cartacio, INIT board member and product manager at Fiddler; Julieta Vallejos, executive director at INIT; Christopher Rodriguez, INIT board member and software engineer at Microsoft; Yasmine Abdrabo, INIT board member and site reliability engineer at Citi; and Cesar Villa-Garcia, INIT board member. 


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Krysten Brenlla