From an Unlikely CA Zipcode, A Digital Nest Emerges


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Jacob Martinez is a social entrepreneur, tech educator, keynote speaker and cutting-edge community collaborator. Martinez believes technology has the potential to break down socioeconomic barriers and unlock economic growth for youth and their communities. As the founder and executive director of Digital NEST (Nurturing Entrepreneurial Skills with Technology), Martinez turned a vision into reality by creating a modern, collaborative workspace for local youth to receive high-tech training.

The opening of the first Digital NEST in 2014 garnered national attention as a model for bridging the digital divide experienced by youth living in low-income, rural communities. Today the NEST continues to expand, with more than 1200 members at two regional centers; its main location in Watsonville, CA and since April 2017, a Digital NEST pilot in Salinas, CA.

Martinez’s inspiration for Digital NEST is built on more than a dozen years of experience and research in teaching tech as a way to overcome economic disparities and achieve equity for Latinos and girls. His early work focused on promoting careers in STEM for youth through an award winning after-school program teaching middle-school girls to create computer games. The program serves hundreds of students in 15 Santa Cruz County schools.

Martinez has presented his work and research to the National Science Foundation, to technology companies Google, Mozilla, and Infosys; to the Computer Science Collaborative Project, the University of California, and the National Girls Collaborative Project. Martinez spoke in 2015 at the first White House Tech Meetup and was named by TechCrunch as one of 2014’s Top 10 Men in the Country Supporting Women in Technology.

Martinez has been widely recognized for his work as a community leader developing innovative approaches to solving social problems across diverse populations. Martinez founded the Santa Cruz County Ag-tech Meetup, co-founded the Watsonville Film festival, is a Community Advisor for Opportunity Fund and hosts a podcast focused on the intersection of agriculture and technology.

He is a frequent speaker at technology and educational conferences and symposia, and has been honored by business, community, and educational institutions for his innovation and leadership. He was named the 2015 Santa Cruz County Entrepreneur of the Year, has provided thought leadership on the impact of tech and underserved student populations, and also received a recommendation letter from former United States Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta.

Martinez graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and received his Master’s in Instructional Science and Technology from California State University, Monterey Bay.

Links from this episode:

Digital Nest:

Jacob Martinez:

Better Schools Won't Fix America, Nick Hanauer, Atlantic Monthly:

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