I first met Andray Domise, co-founder of Techsdale, in 2014 when he was running for Toronto City Council, and I volunteered to canvas for his campaign.
The battleground was Ward 2, better known as the Toronto community of Rexdale in the northwest edge of the city. It’s quite the distance from my home downtown. It took a very long transit trip to get there, but I was inspired by Andray’s passion for his community that I witnessed on social media.
His commitment to help the residents of one of the most underserved wards in Toronto made me want to help get him elected. Lack of access to services was especially detrimental to the youth of Rexdale, many of whom are visible minorities. Extracurricular programs were pretty much non-existent, and employment opportunities beyond fast-food restaurants, retail and convenience stores are few and far between.
As we prepped ourselves to go door-to-door, Andray talked about creating a program for youth to learn how to code video games. He wanted to put specific emphasis on visible minorities that are underrepresented in the gaming industry today (not to mention most technology companies). Not only would the program give kids an outlet for creativity, it would open the door to a new wave of diversity to the industry.
Ultimately, his vision was to make Rexdale a tech hub, creating opportunities for innovation and investments in new business. With the right initiative, and the right funding, this program could truly make a difference for the community.
Andray did not win a seat on Toronto city council that election, but he did get his idea for Techsdale off the ground. The first round of courses for students took place in the fall of 2015. The curriculum was updated for the summer session, and they are now putting out calls for submissions to their blog #ColourCoded to encourage young game enthusiasts to submit articles.
Funding has been a challenge but, as of August 2016, they were able to secure a sizable grant that will allow them to offer several more months of programming. A steady supply of funds in the form of grants and donations will ensure that they’ll be able to continue to provide this new and exciting program to the youth of Rexdale, and put a new innovation hub on the map.
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Softchoice will be hosting a Bike Clean-up & Fix-up in the Liberty Village neighborhood in Toronto to raise funds for Techsdale as part of Softchoice’s Power to the People program.
Cyclists can get the summertime grime cleaned off their bikes, including the chains, as well as minor repairs and assessments from qualified mechanics. If you’re in the area, and your bicycle needs some love and attention, bring it on by the Softchoice courtyard at 20 Mowat Avenue and support this worthy cause!