As executive director of Digi-Bridge, Alyssa Sharpe is helping build Charlotte’s technology workforce of the future.
by Michelle Boudin
Alyssa Sharpe, the executive director of Digi-Bridge, a nonprofit focused on STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education, doesn’t have to look very far for inspiration. Her 3-year old daughter is already showing an aptitude for science.
“She’s obsessed with building things, and she’s already better on an iPad than I am,” Sharpe says.
Sharpe took over as director of Digi-Bridge in August 2019 when founder David Jessup left to go to law school. Jessup started the organization in 2014. Sharpe had been heading up another nonprofit, Project Scientist, before leaving for a consulting job where Digi-Bridge was a client.
Neither Project Scientist, which works to get more girls involved in science and technology, nor Digi-Bridge seemed like an obvious fit, Sharpe admits. She graduated with a degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Central Florida but went to work for Teach for America. The organization moved her to Charlotte, where she taught first grade at Windsor Park Elementary, a Title 1 school in east Charlotte. She says that experience turned her into a lifelong educator and advocate for better education for all.
“I just saw that students had potential, but it was not always matched with opportunity, and that wasn’t fair. I had an interest in science because I saw kids loved it, but there was never time during the school day for it.”
The mother of two reached out to Discovery Place to get training and certification and eventually joined Project Scientist, helping that organization expand nationally. But she wanted to have more of an impact in Charlotte — that’s what drew her to Digi-Bridge.
Digi-Bridge was founded to help train both students and their teachers at the intersection of education and technology. Over the years, the group has added after-school programs, Daddy-daughter code-in events and more. The organization was more important than ever in 2020 as students were suddenly forced into online schooling and people across Charlotte started to realize not all kids had computers — or even internet access — at home.
“It can be easy for people in Charlotte to stay in their bubble, and this year forced us to think about how the pandemic impacted low-income students far worse than others because of a lack of access to technology,” Sharpe says. “We had to get uncomfortable and learn what our neighbors’ needs were and figure out ways to really support them.”
The team at Digi-Bridge worked with community partners to help ensure every Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools student had Wi-Fi access. Sharpe says during the pandemic, enrollment skyrocketed at their after-school programs, with some sites doubling in size.
“It has been really fulfilling. 2020 was our best year ever in terms of fundraising because people saw the need and wanted to deliver. I’m really proud of that and all that we’ve done to serve students.”
It’s a cause every Charlottean should get behind, Sharpe says.
“We’re growing the future workforce. Every other day, there’s a new tech company growing their headquarters or presence in Charlotte, and research proves we have to grow students’ interest at an early age and get them in the tech pipeline. We are working with 1,500 students at 10 schools right now, and those are the students that are eventually going to take over jobs at the tech companies that are growing here in Charlotte.” SP