Recent grad creates non-profit GitStart to give back to #MiamiTech community
By Riley Kaminer
When Miami native Nicholas Sean Gonzalez was going through high school and college, he did not have much guidance along the way. “I remember sleepless nights studying for the SAT,” he told Refresh Miami. Of course, these efforts ultimately paid off: Gonzalez secured a full ride to Florida International University to do a double major in computer science and applied mathematics.
“It was lots of trial and error,” he said of his path to FIU. “I didn’t have enough mentoring in my life.”
That did not stop Gonzalez, however, from continuing on to study a master’s at FIU in computer science, specializing in AI and ML – as well as becoming an Artificial Intelligence Resident at Facebook and a systems administrator at NASA. Now, on top of his master’s studies, Gonzalez has a full-time role at Oracle, working on their health and AI team.
But that’s not all. Gonzalez – who as a community organizing streak, having also led FIU’s Upsilon Pi Epsilon computing initiative – has also founded GitStart, an organization that aims to prepare local students with the exact college and career readiness skills that Gonzalez lacked when he was growing up.
The non-profit offers a wide range of workshops and outreach activities to help students forge their path to a STEM career. For instance, their Early GitStart program pairs high-performing high school students with mentors to help them learn about college and tech job opportunities. GitStart’s College Pathway program helps equip high school students with the skills they need to navigate the college admissions process.
“We have amazing teachers out there that help you all the way until you’re out of high school, but we felt that we were missing that extra mile to guide students from high school to college,” said Gonzalez. “That’s where we come in and we provide them that guidance.”
There are benefits for the broader ecosystem, Gonzalez explained. “It is a unique idea and the first of its kind because we are creating a direct talent pipeline for Miami from the beginning at the K – 12 level and ensuring they pursue higher education for STEM. We reframed the issue of there not being enough local talent or a diverse talent pool by building it from the beginning and creating early exposure.”
Gonzalez reports that GitStart is projected to end this year, its first of operations, with $100,000 in ARR. “That’s huge for a non-profit just starting out,” noted Gonzalez. These funds come from private sector donors who believe in GitStart’s mission.
GitStart has already created partnerships with schools to help teach different topics – from coding to robotics – as well as to provide group and one-on-one mentoring to their students. Ultimately though, it is Gonzalez’s dream to create an entire tuition-free K through 12 academy devoted to STEM, similar to SLAM – a school in Miami that focuses on sports and the arts. For now though, Gonzalez is excited to simply continue GitStart’s growth trajectory.
“What we have going on right now is great – to be able to have impact, make community connections, and help out as many students as we can from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue a career in tech. And grow the local talent pool with Miami as the protagonist.”
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