The Geek Foundation’s origin was years in the making and was born out of Krista Peryer’s desire to see more women and minorities enter the technology industry.
She and Maranda Provance co-founded the nonprofit organization in 2015 with the intent to offer free and accessible technology education for a more diverse workforce. It provides interactive education, resources and support to future technology professionals of all ages. In addition to its six-month adult classes teaching information technology and web development, the organization offers computer programming, coding and robotics programs for children and teens.
“I had seen demand for tech employees and lack of women and minorities in the field through friends who were employed in tech and sought to find a way to get accessible education to those who were underrepresented in tech,” Peryer says of her early efforts to start The Geek Foundation. “I began talking with local tech companies to see if they would hire students who don’t have a traditional four-year degree, especially those who were minorities in tech, and was met with outstanding support.”
A self-taught graphic designer and web developer, Peryer single-handedly ran The Geek Foundation for over five years until it received its first grant in 2020 from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. She says the $24,000 grant was in partnership with the Drew Lewis Foundation Inc., which recruited students for Geek Foundation classes, and Pitt Technology Group LLC, which agreed to hire on select students post-graduation.
The grant set up momentum for the nonprofit, as Peryer hired its first part-time employee in February.
“Until this year, I was paid only what little we could afford, until we had more funding to hire another employee,” she says. “Since that first grant, I increased our revenue by 2,292% by recruiting additional resources of income and partnerships: the Missouri Job Center and state legislative funding.”
Noting Geek Foundation classes are through city workforce development programs, Peryer connected with the Missouri Job Center as a resource to send students post-graduation for assistance in job placement. She says that connection resulted in the Missouri Job Center using Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding last year for a round of classes for the nonprofit.
“Our first round of classes saw 60% of students get full-time jobs in tech within two months of graduation, with two people securing jobs before graduating,” she says, noting annual starting pay for web developers locally averages around $55,000. “One even got employed in web development at Nike. It’s been incredible to see their hard work and dedication pay off.”
Away from the nonprofit, Peryer is active in the community through her service on the Springfield-Greene County Environmental Advisory Board, as well as a volunteer Mary Poppins cosplayer for children’s events. Peryer also has her sights set on local politics, saying she intends to run for a seat on Springfield City Council in 2022.
Plans for the Finley Ridge apartment complex in the growing community of Ozark call for four buildings, four stories apiece, with 48 units each for a total of 192, as well as a 1,500-square-foot shared community and fitness room.