week 37: this week i'm gonna... hack the opportunity gap
At age 13, Micah "Kai" Martin was homeless, abandoned, and unsupported by his parents. By age 15, Kai had been in and out of foster homes. He was very intelligent and tested into the prestigious Boston Latin School. There, he discovered O'Reilly coding books (a leading publisher of computer coding educational materials). But lacking guidance and family support, Kai was quickly expelled and sent back to his prior high school, where he no longer had access to coding instruction.
Kai was tired of school and institutions - he didn't see how any of that would lead him to supporting himself financially. He yearned for the challenge and independence that coding had offered him.
Enter Resilient Coders, an organization that teaches young people from traditionally underserved communities how to code. Shortly after joining the program, Resilient Coders helped Kai get accepted into Startup Institute, an intensive, 8-week coding bootcamp, and they organized an Indiegogo campaign to pay for it. Quickly establishing himself as a coding superstar, Kai became the lead developer for Resilient Coders' Resilient Lab, and now, at age 19, works for the Boston Globe.
Recently, some acquaintances bragged about how much cash they had made that day selling drugs. Kai just smiled - he knew he had out-earned them both.
Please see more about Kai in the video below.
Resilient Coders is a multi-tiered volunteer-based program focused on making technology and the surrounding tech community more accessible to urban youth. Students from traditionally underserved communities are taught how to code in an open-ended environment that encourages experimentation, making mistakes, and furthering personal goals, ultimately leading to a meaningful career path.
Resilient Coders begins by teaching HTML to students in after-school classes. Once they have learned the basics, students are engaged in "coworking" sessions, where engineers, developers, and programmers from local tech companies come and sit alongside the students as they work. This mentoring encourages students to learn at their own pace, push themselves farther, and still receive helpful guidance along the way.
Top student performers then have the chance to participate in Resilient Lab, a web design and development shop that serves real clients. From there, they are on the path to meaningful full-time employment.
Resilient Coders has two main goals: (1) increase the diversity of the coding culture and (2) break the cycle of poverty. You can see more about the program and the Founder, David Delmar, in the video below.
Formerly a lead coder at Paypal, David Delmar was attending a big tech conference a few years ago where he excitedly awaited "the next big thing" to present itself. Instead, he says, he was disappointed by the abundance of ideas that were not really solving any problems. Delmar decided he was actually going to solve a problem; he focused his efforts on working with teens, and Resilient Coders was born.
Every year, the gap widens between the thousands of 21st-century jobs opening up in the tech industry and the thousands of inner-city kids who are still being educated for a long-lost industrial age. Resilient Coders attempts to narrow that gap -- Delmar created an organization that would not only give young students the chance to interact with Boston’s tech community, but also one that would increase the pipeline of diverse and qualified talent interested in the innovation economy.
“A hacker isn’t someone who hacks into Bank of America,” Delmar states. “Instead, they look at a problem and find a way around it. Here’s a problem, figure it out. This is a social problem and the solution isn’t clear. It’s not like a word problem in school, it’s about finding a new way to go about navigating an old problem.”
At the end of 2015, impressed by early results, the City of Boston made Resilient Coders part of its Operation Exit, the mayor’s program to prepare at-risk residents for the working world. In addition, the Resilient Coders 2016 summer camp partnered with the mayor's office to build an app that solves two problems: snow removal and youth unemployment.
Since inception in 2014, Resilient Coders has trained over 80 teens in programming. "Give me four hours," Delmar tells them, "and at the end you’ll have launched a simple website. Give me eight hours and you’ll produce a better website with CSS. Give me more time and you’ll get better—maybe people will pay you to do their websites. If you get even better you might turn it into a career."
Notes for this week:
- International Programmers Day is September 12th (it is always on the 256th day of the year; 256 is the number of distinct values that that can be represented with an 8-bit byte). #hackertrivia
- Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor a student to attend two weeks of coding Bootcamp, helping them build qualifications for a career in technology.
- For more information regarding Resilient Coders, please check out their website.
this week i'm gonna donate to Resilient Coders.