Who We Are

History, Mission and Leadership

Praxis Connections’ Collaborative Solution: Skill Building for a New Economy

CODE FOR LIFE is an exciting new collaborative initiative that unites Praxis Connections, Nyack College, the tech community, and local church partners. CODE FOR LIFE combines the proximity of (and therefore ease of access to) neighborhood churches, the resources of Nyack College’s math and science departments, and the expertise of technology professionals to bring practical tools for professional and economic success to kids living in high poverty neighborhoods. CODE FOR LIFE employs a theory and methodology of change that will transform the way young people view themselves and their future through vision casting, life and technology coaching, case management, positive peer group experiences, and skill building—especially as it relates to coding.

By participating in CODE FOR LIFE, young people in high-poverty neighborhoods can develop practical life skills and the technological proficiency they’ll need to thrive for the rest of their lives. Our mission at CODE FOR LIFE is to create an onramp to the new technology economy for the young people living in high-poverty neighborhoods by means of a church-based technology program.

History: Discovering the Problem & the Solution

Praxis Connections’ President, Chris Troy, met monthly with hundreds of pastors and community leaders who are deeply committed to the communities of Harlem, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Flatbush, Hunts Point, Mott Haven, Morrisania, and Highbridge. They discussed how to best meet the needs in their neighborhoods and improve the prospects for residents of their communities. A lack of access to technology-based education and resources was identified as an ever-widening gulf separating rich and poor students and putting the latter at an enormous disadvantage. Thus, CODE FOR LIFE was born as a means to equip young people living in poor communities for a positive future through technology-focused education. It was also decided that churches would provide a safe and familiar location for young people in the community to receive training in coding and other technology skills. In addition, these churches would provide the opportunity for participants to develop spiritually, emotionally, and academically.

Leadership
Chris Troy

Chris Troy

President, Founder

Chris Troy has over thirty-five years of non-profit, youth development, and ministry experience, and has seen his work impact the communities and lives of at-risk youth and families. During his time in Boston, as founder and president of the Boston Urban Youth Foundation, Mr. Troy established youth ministry programs in partnership with sixteen of Boston’s public schools that facilitated dramatic improvements in the lives of chronically truant students and became the subject of a Harvard Graduate School of Education study. Truancy among the highest risk students was reduced by fifty-three percent in the first year and by sixty-eight percent in the second year. Mr. Troy also created a successful scholarship program that placed students in parochial schools. As a result of both the truancy and scholarship programs, over two hundred youth from high poverty neighborhoods attended college. For these and other initiatives under Mr. Troy’s leadership, the Boston Urban Youth Foundation has received recognition from the Lumina Foundation College Pathways Network, EdVestors, and the Social Innovation Forum.

Collaboration, partnership, innovation, research, and creative programming are all part of Mr. Troy’s background. Since forming Praxis Connections, Mr. Troy has worked with the Luis Palau Association to develop twenty-four church-based, neighborhood-focused collaborations with over three hundred churches that work in the areas of justice, mercy, and education. Mr. Troy has also worked on several collaborative efforts in the high poverty neighborhoods of New York City to decrease poverty and increase opportunity.  Code for Life is an effort that embodies Mr. Troy’s belief that we are all created with tremendous gifts & abilities and incorporates this to reduce poverty and increase opportunity throughout our city.  Mr. Troy lives in his birthplace of Harlem and enjoys jazz & learning.

Johnny Acevedo

Johnny Acevedo

Director of Instruction & Hardware Development

Johnny Acevedo has been tinkering with Legos, bicycles, audio equipment, computers, and various building materials since childhood. He studied electrical engineering at Brooklyn Technical High School before attending the New York Institute of Technology. He graduated from the City College of New York as a Rosenberg/Humphrey Scholar with a major in sociology and a minor in public policy. He then earned a master’s in religion with an emphasis on urban missions from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is passionate about empowering young people to become active creators and makers of technology and not merely consumers and users of technology. 

Johnny currently works as an educator within the New York City public school system. In his twenty years of experience in youth development, he has started and grown technology-rich, holistic youth programs at churches, schools, and community centers in New York City and Chicago. As an education technology consultant, Johnny has helped various schools start or update their STEM initiatives and mentored several elementary and middle school robotics teams. He has developed and taught project-based technology programs at the Community Partnership Charter School in Brooklyn. And he is currently developing a maker space at Harlem Village Academy Elementary and Middle School East in the El Barrio neighborhood of New York City. (A maker space is an educational environment where members of a community can explore, tinker, design, and create.)

Johnny has been married to his wife, Melanie, for twenty-five years. They are the proud parents of Adrian and David, both of whom graduated from the New York City public school system. 

Dawn C. Hayes

Dawn C. Hayes

Creative Technologist in Residence

Dawn C. Hayes is an educator, social entrepreneur, and creative technologist focused on emergent technologies (hardware & software) and prototyping. She is passionate about creating technology to help people create things they need. As a creative technologist with a focus on prototyping, she has interests in emergent technology, creative coding, data, physical computing, 3D printing & fabrication, mixed reality, and other applied technology.

Dawn is the founder of COOL Labs (www.coollabs.org) and has taught at the City University of New York since 2010. She currently serves as the Lead Instructor and Program Associate at Laguardia Community College’s TechHire-Open Code (formerly TECH IMPACT) Web Development Boot Camp that provides career preparation for underemployed and unemployed young adults in New York City.

Dawn was born and raised in Queens where she started on her first computer at the age of 7. A Commodore 64 before earning a BA at Muskingum College and then pursuing graduate work at the ITP at NYU and Columbia University.

Code for Life Design Team Members
Johnny Acevado Coding & Robotics Instructor, New York Public Schools
Dawn C. Hayes Adjunct Professor, CUNY & CEO of COOL Labs
Brett Sims Founder Green Ready Alternative Energy Program
Melvin McCray Columbia University
Andre Williams The Williams Group
Rodney Soloman Verisk Analytics
Pastor Charles Galbreath Clarendon Road Church
Acknel Pierru TRH Digital, LLC
Praxis Connections Advisors
Ruben Austria

Ruben Austria

Community Connections for Youth

Rudy Carrasco

Rudy Carrasco

Partners Worldwide

Romanita Hairston

Romanita Hairston

Murdock Charitable Trust

Dr. Charles Hammond

Dr. Charles Hammond

Nyack College

Julio Medina

Julio Medina

Exodus Transitional Community

Gilford Monrose

Gilford Monrose

67th Precinct Clergy Council

Dr. Marc Rivera

Dr. Marc Rivera

Primitiva Christian Church

Nicole Valentine Esq.

Nicole Valentine Esq.

Synergy Business Development

Bishop Joseph Alexander

Bishop Joseph Alexander

New Covenant Christian Ministries Worldwide

Dr. Harold Dean Trulear

Dr. Harold Dean Trulear

Healing Communities USA & Howard University

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