Avi Knotts, CLA ’25, gained a passion for coding while in high school. Early in her career, she recognized that most STEM fields were inaccessible to so many in her community, because of income and racial barriers. Inspired to create a sustainable change, she founded Avi I.T., prior to coming to Temple.
“The goal of Avi I.T. is to create a realistic pathway for marginalized groups to get into computer science by eliminating barriers to these educational opportunities, such as not having the technology or transportation, and language barriers,” says Knotts.
As she searched for ways to jumpstart Avi I.T., she found the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), which helps “Owlpreneurs” develop their ventures through mentorship programs, dedicated workshops, pitch competitions and other educational opportunities. She competed in the Innovative Idea Competition where she won $1,000 to start.
“The funding helped Avi I.T. become a legal non-profit in 2021,” says Knotts.
She went on to get seed funding through the Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund, also hosted by the IEI. The fund helps women-founded and women-run ventures gain funding, mentorship, and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. From this, she gained $10,000 in funding that was used for laptops, venue rentals, and advertising courses. She began offering courses in Wilmington, Del.
“The mission is to establish a foundation for computer science education among all backgrounds and experiences in order to alleviate the digital divide,” says Knotts.
This mission not only helps students learn skills but also allows them to apply those skills in various ways. The program includes computer science courses, technical repair courses, and technical repair services for small businesses, giving technology to people in need and collaborating with outside organizations.
One of those organizations is the Upendo United Foundation, which is helping to build a school in Nakuru, Kenya. The school, which will be on two floors, will help local children struggling with homelessness and orphans learn job-related technology skills. The school has half of the materials needed for the foundation.
“I am also providing laptops and tablets for them to use in the meantime while they build the school,” says Knotts.
To help with funding, Avi I.T. and the Upendo United Foundation held a gala on Feb. 3, at the Congo Legacy Center in Wilmington. All proceeds will go toward building the school, and the event was a hit and sold out. “I am going to work on the foundation and create connections and relationships with the orphans and homeless youth that UPENDO serves,” says Knotts.
The aim of both organizations is to have the foundation and first floor finished by the end of this year and complete the school in 2024.
To the Nakuru community, Knotts says, “We want to provide you with as much support and wrap-around resources as possible to change your socioeconomic status, and [for] you to believe in yourselves and have hope for the future.”
You can further support Avi I.T here. Learn more about the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) here.