Nonprofit coding classes open opportunities for Harlem students

NEW YORK – The nonprofit program Code Nation is bridging the gap between tech professionals and underserved schools.

Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem specializes in arts education, but now coding is on the curriculum, opening up new opportunities.

An introduction to illustrating with words typed across a screen brings out a new perspective to teens who are normally more comfortable painting and drawing the old-fashioned way.

“It’s a completely different experience, because I’m used to just like using my hands and stuff,” said Dariel Morejon, 16. “Now I can just like type it in, and then it’s right there.”

“It’s cool to see them bring those artistic interests and endeavors and kind of fuse them into the curriculum,” added Code Nation program manager Jake Whitsett.

Code Nation turns professionals in the field into volunteers for underserved schools across New York City, Chicago and the Bay Area. Three-quarters of their students are Black or Latino, groups that make up just 15% of the high tech industry, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data.

Izzy Rodrigues, 16, wants to use the new tools she is learning to further her aspirations as a comic book artist.

“It’s visually pleasing to see the end result and it all working together,” Rodrigues said.

On top of field trips and fellowships, the connections offer an introduction into professional networking. An annual survey of all students shows their growth.

“It’s awesome to see by the end of the year, they say they trust their volunteer,” Whitsett said. “They say they feel like they can go to their volunteer if they need help. If they need a reference letter, they feel they can go to their volunteer for a reference letter, so it’s been awesome to watch that trajectory.”

Over half of students who took the course for two years now study or work in computer science themselves.

“Even if you don’t do coding as your future, it’s a good thing to know,” said Rodrigues. “If you need to make your own website for a business, you can just code it yourself.”

Code Nation welcomes tech professionals to join their team of volunteer instructors. To learn more, click here.

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