Jehron Petty, founder and CEO of ColorStack, knows the value of community and the cost of pursuing a goal.
ColorStack is a 501(c)(3) collegiate member organization for Black and Latinx Computer Science majors. Supporting over 2000 students at 500 schools across the country, ColorStack is dedicated to resourcing students with the support they need to launch successful tech careers and become industry leaders.
Making Changes, Empowering Others
As a student at Cornell University, Petty spent his first semester getting by. Though he started with ambition, he quickly learned that who you surround yourself with will greatly influence your time, goals, and outcomes—for better or for worse. While his grades suffered and social life thrived, Petty was dissatisfied and knew it was time to make a change.
Backed by the confidence of landing his first internship and motivated by a desire to prove he could make it at the ivy league school, Petty quickly shifted his trajectory. Where he used to dedicate his nights to playing video games and binge-watching Netflix, now he had a standing reservation at the library with a group of like-minded colleagues committed to improving their grades and making the most of their college experience.
“I spent my latter three years at Cornell doing two things: advancing my own career as a Computer Science student and lifting hundreds of Black and Latinx students with me as I climbed,” says Petty.
I spent my latter three years at Cornell doing two things: advancing my own career as a Computer Science student and lifting hundreds of Black and Latinx students with me as I climbed.Jehron Petty, Founder and CEO of ColorStack
Petty was frustrated by the untapped potential he saw in other students and made it his mission to help his peers succeed. He would go on to become a Teacher’s Assistant and leader as co-founder of Cornell’s Black Entrepreneurs in Training and Co-President of Underrepresented Minorities in Computing (URMC). Through the development of an online community and commitment to empowering others, Black and Latinx enrollment in the Computer Science department tripled during his tenure.
A Leader on a Mission
Petty realized he was on to something. The more time and effort he put in, the more results he saw. The Computer Science major was growing, and people were getting better grades and more internships. If there was this much potential at Cornell, Petty knew it was time to go national.
By the fall of his senior year, Petty decided to put all his energy into getting the funding necessary to launch ColorStack. Petty met with nearly 400 people in his final months as a college student: investors, philanthropists, recruiters, and engineers who were invested in his mission to see Black and Latinx technologists succeed. Though not everyone was able to give, the common theme amongst everyone was clear, “This is overdue.”
The common theme amongst everyone was clear, “This is overdue.”Jehron Petty, Founder and CEO of ColorStack
ColorStack officially launched in May 2020, on the day of Petty’s college graduation. Through membership, students receive academic support, mentorship, and access to a wide range of student and career development opportunities.
“We want to serve our people and will do whatever it takes to serve those people. That changes with each season, each month, and year. It all depends on what is going on in the world, what their needs are, and what is required of them to succeed in school and the Computer Science field,” says Petty.
One thing that doesn’t change is the value of community to bolster student success. “A lot of students get value from being able to ask questions of others in the community in their same position.” ColorStack members benefit from access to the organization’s Slack channel, their primary avenue of communication.
Since its launch, ColorStack has grown to a team of six full-time employees passionate about helping Black and Latinx Computer Science students thrive. “I knew early on what kind of team I wanted to build because of my experience working with a team in college,” Petty explains. “With the right capital, I was able to build that team and do unconventional things like purchasing CHEGG [learning platform] for our members.”
With the right capital, I was able to build and do unconventional things like purchasing CHEGG [learning platform] for our members.”Jehron Petty, Founder and CEO of ColorStack
Future of ColorStack
This coming year Petty is doing something else unconventional. With the guidance of an executive coach, Petty decided this year was about saying no. By doing less, Petty and his team will be able to focus more on what they do best and provide better core offerings to their members.
“Students want more help and less programs. They are already strapped for time in their university programs… They want to pass their classes, build software engineering skills, and secure jobs,” says Petty. “The more that we can help them accomplish those three goals in a scalable way, the more Black and Latinx technologists we can help catapult into the industry.”
To date, ColorStack has raised nearly $2 million in funding and landed sponsorships from some of the world’s top tech companies. To find out more about ColorStack, visit their website or watch their student success stories!
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