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Rishi sends the STEM elevator down

India Post News Service, September 29th, 2022

Rishi was animatedly browsing his social media on a fall afternoon in September 2017. He was tracking the live-streamed ribbon cutting of entrepreneurship boot camps – launched in twelve different cities simultaneously across California and Charlotte, NC. The “Art of Startup” hands-on learning had just gone live for the semester – it was the first week of 13 – and most classes were filled shoulder to shoulder with eager beavers and their curious parents. This no-charge entrepreneurship bootcamp had started with one Saratoga location but had blossomed into 12 locations after just 18 months with the goal of creating opportunities for young students of California to learn the ins and outs of coding, technology, and entrepreneurship; to take a creative idea, turn it into a business plan, into a project plan and ultimately a finished prototype.

Rishi’s inbox was being flooded by thankful parents as well as the bootcamp instructors. These instructors were personal friends of Rishi who had driven long distances to conduct the launch. Weeks of prep work had gone into this effort as a run up to this day with curriculum and training materials provided to every instructor. Rishi was responding to the thank you notes from parents with a simple request asking the parents to stay the course – and to do their utmost to keep their child in the program. Rishi had identified a huge gap in entrepreneurship education for middle school and high school kids in the United States, and had seized the initiative. His programs were an excellent offering that bridges the digital divide.

Rishi believes in creating this innovation opportunity for all – “Our Silicon Valley economy completely overlooks certain segments of our community who watch the huge skyscrapers of tech companies, but never get to partake in the opportunity. I will fix that! I’m running for United States Congress because I’m tired of seeing career politicians who don’t understand Silicon Valley’s innovation economy. As a valley high tech executive, I have the perspective of what it takes for Silicon Valley’s economy – that contributes almost 45% of California’s annual revenue – to prosper. We must prepare the next generation to succeed in an autonomous world. We cannot fall behind with emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. Silicon Valley must lead the world in technological innovation and we have to stem the tide on the tech exodus.” Rishi has pushed efforts to expand the horizon of any child who finds the zeal to participate.

Rishi’s profile as a tech executive, and a getting-things-done elected leader has positioned him for victory in the upcoming November general election. He is running against a long-standing Democratic incumbent, Anna Eshoo who is in her 30th year in the seat and was elected in the pre-internet era. Rishi’s platform is about ethics-in-politics, a booming economy, and about addressing the urgent, pending issues of Silicon Valley and America such as climate, women’s reproductive rights and income inequality.

As the semester closed later that year, Rishi organized the first Silicon Valley Youth Tech Day, allowing startup teams – the top 3 winners from each bootcamp’s pitch fest competition – to present their innovative startup projects and win the big trophy – seed funding for their startup. San Jose’s mayor Sam Liccardo was the keynote speaker at this event. “We want to invite you to innovate with us because we think this project of becoming the most innovative city in the country by 2020 is not going to be a spectator sport. We’re going to need everybody on the field; nobody can sit in the stands watching, and we really want you to be a part of it.” A busload of Central California students – from the cities of Dinuba, Orosi, Cutler, and Selma arrived to grab some of the special Silicon Valley pixie dust and talk to the students who had their projects on display. Mayor Sam Liccardo and the San Jose Library team had offered not only the San Jose locations for the bootcamps, but also the laptop and infrastructure needed for this educational experience.

Rishi would have not fathomed this day in his wildest dreams as he arrived into America with two suitcases and an American dream. The American Dream means a multitude of things to a variety of people – yet it always evokes a sense of opportunity. The opportunities America has granted Rishi Kumar were more than just a path to prosperity and success.

The freedom, wealth, and innovation of the United States shaped Rishi’s life beyond any conceivable expectation. Growing up in the suburban orbit of Mumbai, his future was elevated drastically when he was accepted into a graduate program at The University of Connecticut’s mechanical engineering program. Rishi reached America with hope in his heart and a passion for the prosperity and freedoms of his new home. He pursued his dream of becoming a successful mechanical engineer all the way to the beating soul of American innovation – Silicon Valley. The path Rishi had set upon would not just end with him rising to the position of a successful high-tech executive living in one of the most affluent communities. Faced with myriad problems within his local community of Saratoga, Rishi plunged into a political journey that has brought him within the reach of the U.S. Capitol today.

Rishi has never forgotten, however, the series of extraordinary circumstances launching him into a life epitomizing the American Dream. It was a combination of dedication, chance, and the willingness of a nation to provide hope for a young man starting at the bottom in a new life – but the foundation was education. America’s wealth of opportunity, he believes, can only continue to persist if everyone can access it. “When I have benefited, it is my duty to send the elevator back down.” That doesn’t just apply to his political ventures, where he is fighting for the people and ensuring that those often left behind have a voice – it extends to his philosophy of life and the community he lives in.

With engineering and technology as the fundamental underlying force of our Silicon Valley economy, a background in the technical sciences is considerably beneficial to forge a lucrative career. Through his STEM bootcamps, Rishi has uplifted disadvantaged youth for the past decade, nurturing practical talents and fostering a foundational aspect of our community. These programs are always available free of charge, allowing anyone to benefit from the learning opportunities provided.

Rishi called out the proud moment for him personally in helping develop California’s computer science public education K-12 curriculum – “As a 22-year resident of Silicon Valley who is intimately integrated with the hi-tech economy, my DNA was built from hard work, love for cutting-edge technology, business and technology leadership. I was a panel member of the California Department of Education Computer Science Strategic Implementation panel, rolling out a K-12 Computer Science curriculum for the state of California that just went live this fall. I was appointed by the California Senate Rules Committee in 2017 to this panel. Empowering California’s students with no-charge entrepreneurship bootcamps, Lego Robotics, Science Fair training and College admission workshops has helped thousands and this curriculum that was just launched will help millions “

Rishi has seized every opportunity to launch STEM education initiatives. When the pandemic struck, it seemed like the world stopped. Nevertheless, Rishi adapted his operational plan, indefinitely suspending his campaign – a very bold move given the general election that was around the corner – and refocused his team on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. He discovered students who were bored with nothing to do over the summer. As a part of his broad push to develop a support network for Silicon Valley communities, Rishi also refactored his youth programs to an online platform, providing much-needed reinforcement to online schooling – classes in Java, Python, and Javascript, as well as an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and a Hackathon for area youth. Four hundred middle school and high school students discovered their love for coding and entrepreneurship and found a good release from the stress of the pandemic.

Rishi explained his vision – “As Silicon Valley’s congressman, I will seed Silicon Valley’s innovation success to other parts of California and America, so that our working-class families share in the economic prosperity. I will invest in the education and mentoring of our youth, and launch Entrepreneurship Incubation Centers to nurture start-ups.”

Rishi has always been dedicated to fighting for the youth, ensuring they have the same opportunities he had, and finding a path to financial freedom. Whether by helping roll out a Computer Science curriculum for California, fighting for the power of education, providing hands-on training, or furnishing a team of interns with leadership skills in his campaign, Rishi knows that power to the youth is the path forward. As Silicon Valley’s first tech savvy congressional leader, Rishi can be that harbinger of future success not only for the innovation economy but for all the students of America.

India Post News Service, September 29th, 2022