Morehouse College freshmen Philip Rucker, Damon Redding and Tyree Stevenson use a programming language called Python to plot a map of weather stations in the United States.
At Tech Square Labs in midtown Atlanta, you’ll find glass walls and high ceilings. It follows the typical design trends of today’s “hip” innovation centers and co-working office spaces. It’s also where 14 low-income African-American students are learning Java as part of the Code Start program.
Code Start is a free, year-long training program for low-income people between the ages of 18 and 24. Participants must have a high school diploma or GED, but not a college degree. Rodney Sampson started the program. He calls Code Start, “an experiment on whether or not we can take ‘disconnected youth,’ who’ve been labeled by the system, and teach them how to be a junior level software engineer or developer.”
The idea for Code Start was born last summer, when the director of Atlanta’s Workforce Development Agency, toured one of Sampson’s minority coding and entrepreneurship classes. Katiana Stevens, says the program is intense, but having classmates she can relate to, helps. “A lot of us have been on the verge of tears after the first week,” Stevens says. “However we’ve built a strong sense of community, really fast. So we’ve all muscled through, we support each other and tell each other to keep going.”