A year ago, Celio Reyes was balancing a part-time job and a hectic senior year at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, a magnet high school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
He was working long shifts as a waiter to save up for community college, the Charlotte Observer reports, a dream that he knew may never become reality given his family’s financial situation.
Reyes and his family moved from Mexico to Charlotte in 2003. His father installs industrial air conditioning and his mother works at a hotel, and while they wanted their son to receive a college degree, it was never a certainty.
“My plan was to work, save some money, and go to a community college for computer science so that I could get my career started,” Reyes tells Business Insider.
Flash forward to today and Reyes is not enrolled at a community college; nor is he still waiting tables.
He’s making $US50,000 a year as a junior web designer at Red Ventures, a growing technology company based in Fort Mill, South Carolina. And, he’s up for a raise soon.
He fast-tracked his way to this position through the company’s experimental program
Code2Hire, which targets high-achieving high-school graduates from low-income families and offers them free web design and development training.
The 12-week intensive training program ultimately produces ideal entry-level candidates who are prepared to make a seamless transition into full-time roles, VP of engineering Colin Mutter tells Business Insider.
Undocumented immigrants such as Reyes are able to participate because of their DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) credentials. This immigration policy, which began in 2012, allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the US before the age of 16 to receive a renewable two-year work permit.
Rather than spending thousands of dollars on college tuition and accumulating an overwhelming amount of student debt, Reyes is earning a substantial salary straight out of high school.
While Reyes may be missing out on the social aspects of college, he’s building a solid skillset that many of his peers enrolled in university classes do not have access to. “I’ve talked to some of my friends in college that are in computer science classes, and they tell me that they barely write any code in their classes,” he says. “I write so much code here, so I’m definitely getting a lot more experience working hands-on than I would if I went to school.”
Ric Elias, CEO and cofounder of Red Ventures, told the Charlotte Observer that part of his motivation for the program was to show that a college degree is not essential for success.
Mutter echoes this sentiment and adds, “Historically, we’ve had some really phenomenal hires that don’t have college educations.”
He does note that Code2Hire does not have to be a college replacement. While college may not be an immediate option for these low-income high-school grads, they may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree later on. “That’s up to the individual,” says Mutter. “By providing a solid foundation and a good career path here, it’s certainly something that someone could do, but they don’t have to.”
Reyes hopes to earn a college degree one day, “but that’s more of a self-satisfaction type thing,” he explains. “My priority right now is capitalising on this opportunity, getting experience, and becoming a better developer.”
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