Jay’Aina “Jay Jay” PattonFounder of Photo Patch and Unlock Academy Fort Myers, FL Award Year: 2021
Jay Jay found her calling after she and her family learned how challenging it can be for incarcerated parents to stay connected to their children. In addition to the pain of physical and emotional separation, there is a financial challenge of the cost of phone calls and video visits. During the pandemic, when many jails and prisons have been limiting in-person visits, the toll of separation has been even harder. When Jay Jay was 9 years old (in 2014), her father was released from prison. She and her father created Photo Patch, a website allowing children to share letters and photos with their incarcerated parents for free. Realizing the youth of today prefer using their cellphones to share these messages, Jay Jay learned how to code and created a mobile app version. Since its launch, the app has gained nearly 2,000 users and has been downloaded over 10,000 times, proving to be invaluable during new lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19. Jay Jay is currently working with her father to create coding classes for Black youth at Unlock Academy.
Jay Jay is using her award to launch a new initiative, 10K Tech Queens to help 10,000 women and girls of color launch a career in STEM, specifically in technology.
Jay Jay was filmed by HP for its Generation Impact series, which features young inventors using technology to make the world a better place.
She was also named a Voice of Change by Seventeen magazine and she and her father appeared on The Ellen Show, where they shared their story, spread Jay Jay’s mission for 10K Tech Queens, and received an additional $20k from Ellen and the rapper Ludacris.