Cleveland Teens Code For Community, Discover Career Pathways

The CLETeenHack – Coding for Community: Civic Engagement was a 9-week programming cooperative event for greater Cleveland area high school students that began on March 16th and ended in an awards ceremony on May 6th. Seven teams from five different area high schools created different parts of an app, then combined them to create one comprehensive app. The CLETeenVote (https://teenvote.herokuapp.com/) application engages teens in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election by providing summaries of political issues, summary profiles of the candidates, and information about voting opportunities and locations for those teens 18 years or older.

Kimberly Browske was a teen participant on the Beaumont team. “Our main objective was to create a website that presents teams with the issues that will be presented at the Republican National Convention, not only presidential nominations, but also other issues that will be in the election for the State of Ohio and the Cleveland community,” she said. “ A lot of research was done to outline the specific issues. Our website is an educational tool for teens, or even adults or children, to have their say in what they think about issues. There’s a ballot page where you can vote, and we can collect information about what teens and others who are using the site are thinking about issues that are going on in the community and in the state. With those results we can better understand what might happen in our future and what the next generation of voters is saying about current issues.”  

We Can Code IT, a coding bootcamp that focuses on inclusion and diversity in technology, provided experienced instructors for the teams. The community-wide event was sponsored by AT&T and included cooperation from Cuyahoga Community College, Junior Achievement Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and Destination Cleveland. Local employers also reached out to their tech team employees and requested they volunteer as mentors who went to schools every week to help teams with leadership and guidance throughout their projects. One of those mentors is Joel Byler, a Software Developer at CoverMyMeds. “I really think CLETeenHack helped the teens get involved in software projects and learn something new, get some new skills. It helped them learn that software development isn’t some magical thing. It’s something they can do. High school students can do this and accomplish something great,” said Byler.  

One of the objectives of CLETeenHack was to make area teens aware of software engineering as a lucrative career path. Many of the teens who were on CLETeenHack teams had never been introduced to software engineering before CLETeenHack. Curtis Clemis, a student at Jane Addams Business Careers Center, was among them. His accounting teacher told him and other students about coding and encouraged their participation in CLETeenHack. “We didn’t know what coding was at all,” said Clemis. “Our first day with our mentor and instructor was really hard because we didn’t know anything about coding.” By the end of CLETeenHack he was considering a career as a software engineer. “I like all of the different languages you can know,” said Clemis. “The inside of a webpage is like …  wow! To know the outcome of the numbers and languages you put in there, to make the insides and the outside, it’s really cool.” Each student learned valuable software engineering skills such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The teens didn’t only learn coding skills. They also learned how to collaborate, communicate, and work on group projects. “These teens were working together collaboratively,” said Byler. “Not in a competition, but building something together without the pressure of getting it done within 54 hours like a typical hackathon, but still with the pressure of getting it done in six to eight weeks. It was more like let’s show the world what the kids in our school can do when we collaborate and team up with other schools on something. CLETeenHack was much bigger than a high school competition.”  

Indira Samuels is a We Can Code IT Coding Bootcamp graduate, and now she’s a software engineer at TMW. She volunteered as an instructor for a team at Shaw High School. “The community impact is that we encouraged the kids to think about programming and to think about what they’re going to do after graduating from high school,” she says. “A lot of kids said they would go into computer programming as a major or take college classes in it.”

In the end, the entire event concluded with an awards ceremony in which the teams that created parts of the application creatively and functionally won cash prizes, iPads, and more. Each team presented their portion of the app during 10-minute breakout sessions. The winning schools were:

First place:  Team Beaumont ($2500)
Second Place:  Jane Addams Business Careers Center ($1500)
Third Place:  Team Shaw, Shaw High School ($1000)

“Our final project was very clean and it worked exactly the way we wanted it to,” said Browske.“I’m proud of what we produced and I think it looks great. On the site itself it looks like it was developed by adults working together. I’m really happy with what we made. All the students worked hard to produce those pages. We had such a good time learning and growing through the opportunity to participate in CLETeenHack. I think CLETeenHack is a great way for students to interact with the community while learning technology and coding.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Check Out CLETeenVote!