Coding for a Better Life

A few years ago, there was a viral story about a programmer in Manhattan who met a homeless man and, instead of simply giving him a few dollars and walking away, bought him a used laptop and spent weeks teaching him how to code.

While this type of gesture from an individual may be unusual, the underlying concept is actually fairly common. Coding skills are in high demand. There are a myriad of good, stable, well-paying jobs that hire people who can code, and the field is continually growing. In fact, there are dozens of organizations out there who specialize in finding and reaching out to people looking to improve their station in life, whether it’s adults who are down on their luck or underprivileged kids, and teaching them the ins and outs of coding. Here are six such organizations.

  1. #YesWeCode. The #YesWeCode initiative was originally begun by Prince, with help from CNN commentator Van Jones, as a way to give underprivileged teens who might otherwise be written off as “thugs,” the tools to do more. Their mission is to help 100,000 young people from diverse backgrounds find success in tech. Volunteers tutor kids, both in person and digitally, in everything from SQL to software programming to web design and more. They also have an alumni network, so that after they’ve helped someone get situated in the tech industry, they can turn around and help the next crop of underprivileged students find the same success.
  2. Code.org. Code.org believes that kids should start learning to code early. They provide computer science curriculum for elementary and high school students, and want to make sure that computers are as widely taught as, say, math and science. They created the Hour of Code Campaign, which provides one hour tutorials to anyone, anywhere in the world, who wants to learn coding basics. However, while they’re dedicated to teaching anyone and everyone, their particular focus is on programs to help women and minorities learn to code. Many of their students are also from low income households. These are the demographics that tend to be vastly underrepresented in the field, and Code.org wants to help them level the playing field.
  3. Coding with Refugees in UT. A collaboration between the Cotopaxi outdoor apparel company and the Utah Refugee Services Office, along with Adobe, the Coding with Refugees in Utah program specifically targets those who have fled their own company and are trying to build a new life for themselves in the U.S., and Utah in particular. Finding work can be difficult under those circumstances, so learning an in-demand skill like coding can provide refugees with a significant leg up.
  4. NEXT Academy. For more than 90 years, the New York Urban League has helped disadvantaged people in New York by offering them educational programs, employment services, and more. The NEXT Academy is an offshoot of that, which specifically focuses on STEM education. Their six week program not only teaches eighth grade students JAVA coding, but also allows them to explore STEM careers, visit top technology firms, and more. They also have a program for parents, to help them become better, more knowledgeable mentors when it comes to STEM, helping them better understand what STEM entails and how to find STEM opportunities for their children.
  5. All Star Code. All Star Code specifically focuses on young black and Latino men, many of whom come from low income households. Similar to #YesWeCode, it seeks to help them thrive in an area where they are often underrepresented, and find success rather than being written off. They teach coding as the basis for startups and other entrepreneurial opportunities. This means teaching computer science skills, but also how to navigate tech startup culture and what it takes to succeed in a world where they’re vastly outnumbered. Their main program is the Summer Intensive, a six week free, selective program to train young tech entrepreneurs.
  6. Catalye.io. Catalyte, our parent company, leverages machine learning and proprietary algorithms to objectively discover high-performing talent from within multiple communities. For over 15 years, they have been able to find people who would never have considered a career in software development, and train these individuals for 12-20 weeks via an in-classroom onboarding program to become full-stack enterprise software developers experienced in team-based Agile methodology. These individuals go on to integrate into software development teams who deploy them on product engineering and managed services projects for Fortune 500 clients such as Under Armour, Nike, eBay, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others.

These are just a few of the many organizations helping underprivileged and undiscovered kids and adults use coding and computer science as the tools for a better life. There are plenty of others all over the country. There are probably even some programs in your community. Do some research and find out how you can donate your time, money, or other resources to help others find success through coding.



Author: Erik Smith