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Cultivating Coders Española Demo Day

Twelve Española high school and middle school students went back into the classroom this summer to learn new programming skills during an eight-week Full Stack Web Development Bootcamp hosted at Northern New Mexico College. This technical training was led by Cultivating Coders, an Albuquerque-based company working to build capacity in rural areas often disconnected from the technology industry.

Back row L-R : Thomas Martinez, Cesar Urbano, Chris Velasquez, Zachary Salazar, Benjamin Sandoval, Jeremiah Martinez, Seth David, Vincent Ortiz
Front: Rique Fernandez, Eduardo Juarez, Judith Perez, Gabriel Duran

During the coding camp students learned eight different programming languages including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They each received their own laptop loaded with software and created personal websites, writing code from scratch not using templates. The last two weeks of the program was devoted to group projects that included a newspaper-style website for Española Valley High School and a video game forum.

As part of the final Demo Day, the young coders presented their projects to community members, highlighting not just programming but also the project planning, collaboration, research, copywriting, images, and graphics that went into the sites’ development.

 

Eduardo Juarez, one of two middle school students in the group, became one of lead coders. The eighth grader says he’s interested in a career as a software developer or movie producer and wants to major in computer programming in college.

 “The coolest thing was making websites, and I liked working together too. It took time to learn and was kind of hard, but eventually I got it, and it was fun,” said Eduardo.

Cultivating Coders’ president and founder Charles Ashley III describes the company as a social impact program that works to not just prime the next generation of coders but also empowders them to develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and team work to help students create a better future for themselves. 

“We know that the inner city is tough,” said the Chicago native, “but think about all of the smaller places that are falling by the wayside. It’s important to invest in the kids early and in rural communities. This work transfers anywhere.”

The success of the program is reflected in a former student. Dana Yazzie from Gallup, NM, attended the company’s first bootcamp in April, 2016 and now serves as one of its professional trainers. She also does freelance work in web development.

LANL Foundation sponsored this program as part of its K–12 programming to address the larger spectrum of educational needs in Northern New Mexico and to build interest and opportunity in tech careers.

Gwen Perea Warniment, K–12 program director at the LANL Foundation, is expanding upon the organization's vision to cultivate excellence in public education in the Northern New Mexico by partnering with innovative and developing projects. The program looks to invest in programs that foster STEM education, socio-emotional engagement, and teacher leadership.

“I am committed to this community and want to see it grow,” she expressed.  “We have amazing kids, and connecting them with programs like this creates new opportunity.”

Brandon Trebitowski, chief technology officer for Cultivating Coders encouraged the students to continue with the work started in the bootcamp. He emphasized that the average starting salary for software developers out of college is $85,000 and many in the field work from home.

“It’s hard to do all of this work in eight weeks. We struggle to get adults through it,” added Charles. “What we’ve taught you is very real, and these tools connect you to the entire world. But if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

The next step for the Española teens is to start a coding club and gain additional student and teacher support. They plan to continue building upon the framework of their group websites, creating a profile-based gaming system with a message board feature and giving voice to students around high school events and sports.

The program has also worked with young coders in other parts of New Mexico including and Albuquerque, Farmington, the Navajo Nation, Shiprock, NM and South Valley.

Visit Cultivating Coders website, view Charles Ashley's Ted Talk.

Read related articles in the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe Reporter.