On a patch of palm-tree-abundant land by the Bay, the small city of East Palo Alto is an often forgotten corner of the Silicon Valley landscape.
Situated between the Google and Facebook campuses, the racially mixed city has seen rapid gentrification since the technology industry boom of the last decade. Tech workers in search of affordable housing have moved in, driving up rent and house prices and helping to level off an unemployment rate that is nearly triple that of the county.
Still, East Palo Alto can’t manage to shed its reputation for once having the country’s highest murder rate. Gang activity persists in the form of turf feuds and drug-vendetta-inspired violence, despite an overall drop in crime.
One issue deepening the divide between the tech industry and the city’s locals is the lack of opportunities for East Palo Alto residents to get in on the success. There are very few places to learn computer science in the area.
Two students at Stanford University set out to change that.
Earlier this month, we featured Shadi Barhoumi and Rafael Cosman on our list of the 15 Incredibly Impressive Students At Stanford. The duo, who met and became friends as computer science majors, launched a learn-to-code program this summer called CodeCamp. More than 50 students, ages 14 to 23, who live in East Palo Alto learned to write and design software with the help of over 40 mentors from nearby high schools, universities, and tech companies.
At CodeCamp, students gather in the glow of a computer monitor, rather than around a campfire. Arts and crafts are replaced with coding sprints, and campers explore major tech company campuses instead of the woods.
Far from being your typical camp, CodeCamp gives these kids an outlet into the vibrant world of technology, which suddenly doesn’t seem so off-limits.