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Get a taste of real programming at your local library during Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13 with FREE classes offered downtown, in Tierrasanta, Linda Vista, North University, Oak Park, La Jolla and other locations.
Getting teens and younger kids excited about computer programming is no easy feat, but The League of Amazing Programmers’ success teaching young people a vital skill for the future workforce proves it’s possible if you approach the craft in a fun, hands-on way.
Programmer and League teacher June Clarke has a unique perspective on programming that highlights just how versatile the skill is. She’s not what someone would think a programmer would look like — she’s young, has red hair and wore purple patterned pants to a recent programming class at the Central Library in downtown San Diego. She left her job making $140K+ per year to teach the next generation of programmers.
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“Programming is the superpower of the future,” June said. “It’s like a magic skill other people don’t have.” June said as the world evolves technologically and more of our daily lives become dependent on the digital world, programming will be a required skill.
“Everything is going from paper to the digital world,” June said. “If you’re a master of the digital world and can bend it to your will, that’s powerful.”
League student Vanessa has been taking programming classes for more than a year. She said taking classes at The League has shaped how she thinks about the future. “Coding has opened my mind,” Vanessa said. “I want to do more now. I want to be bigger and go big and build an app that will help people, help the world.”
Equal Parts Philanthropy and Career Preparedness
The League has a giving back model to pass on the joy of programming — 23 professional programmers volunteer to teach students every week. Then, once the kids learn the skills needed to teach, they become Teaching Assistants and pass on what they learned to the younger students. “We try to emphasize the importance of giving back – and teaching others this valuable skill as a great way to do that,” says June.
Students who take classes with The League of Amazing Programmers are able to pass the Advanced Placement Computer Science test and the Oracle Java Professional Certification Exam during high school, setting them on the path to become professionals in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) field.
League students are so prepared to write code that they land internships at local tech companies while still in high school. “It’s a great opportunity for both the students and the companies,” says June Clarke. “The students are able to practice what they’ve learned in a professional environment, and the companies don’t have to worry about handholding because we teach our students to write real code, from scratch.”
The League of Amazing Programmers seeks to fill the technological gap by training the programmers of the future. June said the San Diego start-up community has suffered from a skills gap because it isn’t perceived as a hub for innovation, so talent is lost to places like the Silicon Valley. “We want to encourage the young talent to pursue opportunities here in San Diego,” June said.
Preparing Students for Productive Futures
The League of Amazing Programmers works with students from elementary to high school, introducing them to programming and the possibilities it can open up for their future.
e-3 Civic High School 9th grader Malik attends League classes with his fellow peers at the Central Library every week. Malik has only been in League programming classes for a couple months, but said he knows he wants to be a part of the STEM field and thinks the classes he’s taking now will help him when he goes to college and studies math or engineering.
Malik joined some of his fellow peers at a programming class where students learned how to make an image of a unicorn dance across a rainbow. It might sound like it’s easy, or even kind of silly, but learning how to program in a hands-on way teaches young students a fundamental skill they must all have: problem-solving.
“I have a philosophy of two different mindsets people have,” June said. “Some people have a fixed mindset and believe intelligence is set at birth and then there is the growth mindset. Our students learn to have a growth mindset because they’re constantly problem solving. It’s an immensely powerful way of thinking that’s relevant to everyday life.”
“As the world becomes more technical, there will be a gap between those who know how to use technology and those who don’t.” For this reason, The League has recently shifted gears toward reaching those who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM – minority groups and girls.
This summer, The League started offering weekly classes at the Central Library in an effort to make its program more accessible. “SDG&E sponsored our first-ever workshop at this location, and the Central Library has provided the computer lab for our classes,” said June. This partnership made the Central Library the first public library in the nation to offer classes to young students, so that they may receive training for computer programming careers, for free.
“I’m stoked to be teaching classes here at the library, it’s an inspiring place in the heart of this amazing city.” The League plans to replicate this model of teaching at libraries and community spaces throughout the county.
If you represent a tech company and would like to invest in your future workforce, consider partnering with The League of Amazing Programmers to train the programmers of tomorrow.