Data has transformed the way we live. There is so much information available to us these days that we can use it to make pinpoint and informed decisions that go beyond educated guesses or hunches. Data can be leveraged in almost any area of life and industry. Thomas Cuyler, a high school senior at School Without Walls in Rochester, New York, has decided to do both.
According to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper, two years ago, the former mayor of Rochester Thomas Richards earmarked $200,000–divided equally between four quadrants of the city–to be used for projects that had been developed and designed by citizens to make a positive impact on their neighborhoods.
In the Northeast quadrant, where Cuyler lives, $50,000 was awarded to help expand his GIS Scholars program, which gives students an opportunity to learn more about the technology used in Geographic Information Science (GISc).
“The students will create a mapping project designed to assist with crime prevention in selected areas,” the Democrat & Chronicle wrote, adding, “The students will also create maps to plot variables surrounding crime such as property ownership, poverty, proximity to services and others.”
Two years later, the program is a success. In a separate article, the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper revealed that the group is in the process of creating an interactive map that highlights street-level information such as high crime areas, the public transportation routes that run through them, the associated housing conditions, and the number of businesses and schools that are either in or in close proximity to these areas.
GIS Scholars has also partnered with the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency. The organization serves as a subcontractor to better understand corner stores in Rochester that are deemed ‘high impact’ when it comes to crime and illegal activity taking place outside of them. The group has also teamed up with Monroe Community College, which has offered discounts on courses for students enrolled in the program, as well as providing them with equipment and office space to use.
In short, the interest in using geospatial technology to better understand the neighborhoods they live in has opened up students in the program to pursue GIS as a career. “There are actual positions out there that these kids can aspire to,” Jonathan Little, a professor at MCC who works closely with the GIS Scholars program, told the newspaper in a separate article. “This gives them a foot in the door,” said Johnathon Little.