Last Wednesday, 20 excited teens gathered on the 28th floor of the Bloomberg Tower in Manhattan. They were graduating from a six-week summer program that turned them into programmers.
It was demo night, where they would show off an impressive collection of early stage projects, from action games to online cookbooks.
These were the graduates of the first-ever New York summer internship CodeNow program, where underprivileged students learn multiple programming languages with help from influential tech leaders in their communities.
For instance, Infor CEO Charles Phillips was there that night. His company helped buy each kid a new Toshiba Windows 8 laptop.
Other companies involved included Google, Microsoft, and Bloomberg. With the addition of New York, CodeNow currently operates in three metropolitan hubs, including the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington D.C. CodeNow is the brainchild of Ryan Seashore, who was inspired to start this organisation in 2011 after working on youth outreach for Obama’s last presidential campaign.
The kids who complete the program get to keep the computer they work on. They also agree to 100 hours of mentoring to the next crop of kids to enter the program, and to start coding clubs at the schools and such.
In other words, not only do they get a head start on a great career, they agree to teach others how to code.
Phillips told us he contributed to the project because someone once helped him when he was a teen. He kept poking around the local electronics store. The store owner noticed, befriended him and taught him how to build computers and code.
That experience changed his life and today he’s the CEO of a nearly $US3 billion enterprise software company and now he wants to help teens in much the same way.