Computing and information technology should be egalitarian. Sadly, the real world doesn’t always operate on the principle of equal opportunity. Aspiring developers often face social barriers because of their ethnicity or economic circumstances. Some of our best and brightest would-be programmers may be stuck on the wrong side of a wall of unequal privilege.
The good news: A number of nonprofits and volunteer organizations are working day in and day out to dismantle those walls, a brick at a time, and give people the tools they need to scale over. Here are four such organizations looking to create equal access to computer science and programming education, all in need of volunteers, donations, wider awareness, or all of the above.
The mission of Code2040 is to “dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx people in the innovation economy.” The organization offers two primary programs to this end: the Early Career Accelerator program, where experienced mentors provide weekly career guidance, and the Fellows Program, a career accelerator aimed at college or graduate-level computer science students that places them in a nine-week internship program at one of a number of Bay Area tech companies. Applications for the Fellows Program open in the summer of each year; applications for the Early Career Accelerator tend to close in September.
CodeNow offers workshops, online courses, hackathons, and competitions that give high school students practice and experience with software development. The weekend workshops focus on developing simple web apps; online courses provide direct mentorship for more advanced learning; hackathons help students develop project portfolios for college applications or career paths; and summer competitions bring students together to compete at developing their own projects.
Code Nation, originally known as ScriptEd, brings coding courses and work-based learning programs to high schools that lack the funding to offer such programs. The courses offered include an intro to web development and two “fellowship” courses, which cover more advanced concepts like source control, APIs, and the React framework. Alumni from the program qualify for career support beyond high school, including paid internships. Schools in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland “where at least 75% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch” are all eligible, and the organization is planning to expand into other cities over time.
TheOpenCode Foundation provides students from low-income families with the education and resources to pursue careers in programming and computer science. In addition to providing a computer science curriculum, computers, and Internet access to students, the foundation hosts virtual hackathons, runs student-led clubs, and offers a tech-themed podcast. Also in the offing are workshops on various tech-related themes such as computer security, game theory, and the ethical use of AI. There’s also an internship program that places a select set of students within the organization’s ranks.