Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos strolled into a D.C. high school computer science classroom Monday morning, offering the room of aspiring coders a pep talk and giving a shout-out to their surprised teacher.
The tech billionaire’s unannounced visit to Dunbar High came as part of an event to celebrate a new milestone in the Amazon Future Engineer Program. Amazon announced Monday that the program is now offered at more than 2,000 high schools nationwide and reaches over 100,000 students.
The program, which begins in elementary school and is focused on underserved communities, provides funding for introductory and AP computer science courses once students reach high school.
Bezos chatted casually with students. “Hey guys, how are you doing? Is this a computer science class?” he asked. “All right, good, I’m in the right place.”
His entrance drew a shocked reaction from teacher Ramona Hutchins.
“Jeff Bezos, oh my God!” she exclaimed.
Later, in a brief talk at the head of the class, Bezos said that while Amazon provides the funding, the program is only possible thanks to advocates inside the schools, turning to Hutchins and calling her a “champion” for the program.
As part of the Amazon program, high school students also have the chance to qualify for a $40,000 scholarship to attend college or university to study computer science. They are also offered guaranteed paid internships.
Student Larry Huyman said pursuing a computer science career is “something that I never imagined doing. This will be a great thing to fall back on.”
While learning everything from coding to how to work together on complex projects, students also welcomed Amazon engineers who stopped by to see more of their work.
Bezos shared a few words of encouragement with students.
“I strongly encourage you guys to keep at this. You learn these kinds of skills and it’ll change your life,” said Bezos. “This generation, you guys … you get to invent the future and it’s going to be a really cool future.”
Hutchins said the program is a reminder for students that anything is possible. “I’m excited about their untapped potential,” Hutchins said. “This class is going to continue to have a lasting impact.”