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Auckland high school students heading for Silicon Valley

Nine ICT-savvy students from Avondale College and Manurewa High School are heading to Silicon Valley July 6 to visit industry giants, and meet with start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The six day itinerary includes visits to Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Stanford University, as well as meetings with start-ups and entrepreneurs.  However, the students won’t just be observers. They will also have the opportunity to pitch their own ideas and innovations to venture capitalists based in Silicon Valley.

The trip, organised by RadioLIVE business correspondent and CIO Summit 2014 MC Andrew Patterson, is being paid for by over 20 businesses and private donors who have contributed to a travel fund to make the trip a reality.

Mr Patterson tells NBR that donors include Xero, Fronde and Mainfreight.*

The idea was sparked after the broadcaster had a discussion with Xero CEO about ways to help high school students become more involved in ICT — particularly high-achievers from lower decile schools.

"If you're a student at St Kents and you're interested in ICT, your parents will have the connections to make it happen," he says.

Mr Patterson says a parent of one of the boys selected contacted him, saying she only had $56 in her bank account. He decided to extend funding to cover every single element of the trip, including incidentals such as the cost of applying for a passport. He hit the phone, and 24 out of 25 businesses he approached stumped up.

The students themselves took part in a competitive pitch process to secure their places in the group.

Avondale College principal Brent Lewis says the experience will be life changing for the students.

“They are having their world broken open in a very significant way. Future employment opportunities will come from focusing on the development of our intellectual property.  The tyranny of distance for New Zealand trade and enterprise is being broken by IT, and these students are at the leading edge of that.”

For Jayden Cooke (17), a Year 13 student at Avondale College, the opportunity to experience first-hand the pace, energy and excitement of Silicon Valley is something he had only dreamed about.  “I know I want to get into computing and I’m so excited to have this amazing opportunity to visit places like Google and Facebook.”

Daniel Wilson, Acting Principal of Manurewa High School said the five students participating in the trip were truly deserving of the opportunity.

“This trip provides a unique opportunity for these exceptionally talented students to immerse themselves in a technological world that will inspire and motivate them as innovative business leaders of tomorrow”.

Andrew Patterson, the organiser and driving force behind the trip, hopes the students will bring back to New Zealand a sense of global opportunity.  

“New Zealand is a very small part of the international economy. The students need to understand that successful businesses can be started here, but having connections with Silicon Valley is an important part of that process; it’s the epicentre of the whole technology sector globally.”

* The full list of sponsor companies is Xero, Vodafone, Jade, Fronde, Vend, Westpac, ATEED, Callaghan Innovation, Deloitte, Milford Asset Management, Just Water, Mainfreight, Power by Proxi, Montoux, Endeavour Capital, Wiki Capital and David Levene Foundation. There are also private donors.

More by Chris Keall

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