Citizen Schools Student Presents at the White House

When Cassidy Wright first saw President Obama in person she lit up, saying, "Is it really him?!" To her delight, it really was. Out of hundreds of students, Cassidy, a Citizen Schools student from the Irving Middle School in Massachusetts, was selected to be one of 50 students to present at the third annual White House Science Fair. With the poise of an expert, she explained to United States Chief Technology Officer Todd Park how to set up a LED light circuit programmed by a computer. And she's only in 6th grade...

Cassidy with Citizen Schools CEO & Co-Founder Eric Schwarz

Cassidy Wright is part of a special class called TechnoSWAG-- a hands-on learning project taught by volunteers from technology company Cognizant. During this "apprenticeship" Cassidy and her classmates  have learned the science and technology behind circuits, electricity and computer programming from real-life scientists and engineers.

Since day one, Cassidy has been a stand-out student in this apprenticeship. For her TechnoSWAG project, Cassidy chose to use her new found knowledge of technology for a cause close to heart. She created a light-up banner that says “Be Yourself," which takes a stand against the bullying that she sees in middle school, in the hope that she can encourage other students to accept themselves as they are, and to accept others.

Technically speaking, she created the banner by sewing LED lights and an open-source Lilypad Arduino microcontroller into the fabric with conductive thread. Then, she wrote a computer program to tell the LED lights when and how long to light up at different points, creating a pattern.

Presenting to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park

Cassidy is a prime example that all kids can achieve great things when given the opportunity. She lives in the Hyde Park area of Boston, a typically low-income neighborhood, with her mother and brother. Through her TechnoSWAG apprenticeship class, Cassidy feels she's more prepared to achieve her goals, even though she knows it will be hard. She’s ready to work hard for the dreams she's discovered.

Cassidy says she doesn't try to be like other people and she doesn't let herself care about what other people say about her. She reminds herself of the advice and values her mother instilled in her, “I’m specially gifted in my own way and I don’t try to be like everyone else.”

We are so proud of Cassidy-- of her courage to present in front of national leaders, of her strength in believing in herself, and of all her hard work in taking advanced technological concepts and applying them to create something beautiful. Cassidy, you're our hero!