MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two Mid-South students were honored with prestigious achievements and awards for their work in the community.
For 14-year-old Johnathan Sherrill, it was about highlighting the injustice happening across the country. He and two other students came up with an idea to create an app allowing users to go through a day in the life of a middle-class Black man.
“At the time there was the social injustice movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and we wanted to make an app for that, to explain it,” he said.
The students are from CodeCrew, a non-profit organization serving underrepresented youth and empowering children and adults in the tech and innovator world.
“I think it’s really important for people to know that even if you already have your own perspective, it is very important for you to step into another person’s shoes to be able to better understand what it is that they’re saying to you,” said Jayda Murray.
Sherrill and Murray were accepted into the Raising Good Gamers and Ted ED Talks program, one that supports students as they discover, explore and present their big ideas.
They are two of only 30 students worldwide to be selected in the after-school program. It’s also an opportunity for recognition at the 2021 Games for Change Festival.
Sherrill, Murray and her sister Anaya also won first place in Tennessee’s Congressional App Challenge. This is the Murray’s second win.
On their first win, Jayda and her sister submitted an app about campus safety for girls, giving them the tools to navigate from high school to college.
“There’s some stats out there the Kaper Center put out a month ago that five percent of the workforce in tech is African American. That’s dismal,” said CodeCrew’s Deputy Executive Director Kela Jones.
She said diversity in tech is a real, concerning problem. It’s the result, she said, of students not knowing about the field and being exposed to it through school.
Those in CodeCrew are producers in technology. The organization has doubled its impacts since its start in 2015, serving hundreds of students in Memphis and across the country. Ninety-one percent of the students they serve are Black and Latinx, and ones with success stories or well on their way.
“I wanted to graduate from a prestigious university,” said Sherrill when asked about his future. “I also want to diversify my portfolio by investing in bitcoins, stocks and becoming a successful entrepreneur.”
“I wish to be a game developer and a game designer, but I want to start my own company to be able to help other kids,” added Murray.