Code in the Schools, a Baltimore-based non-profit, teaches inner city youth skills they may not pick up at their school. That skill set includes HTML and computer programming. In addition, it provides a safe haven to those who may need it.

Students learn how to write computer code for things like video games and web sites in the Code in the Schools program. (Courtesy photo)
Students learn how to write computer code for things like video games and web sites in the Code in the Schools program. (Courtesy photo)

Code in the Schools was inspired by the New York City non-profit “Chess in the Schools” and the  Code.org “hour of code” initiative, which aims to get coding into school. Founded by Mike and Gretchen LeGrand, two philanthropists, in 2013 Code in the Schools provides Baltimore youth with access to a computer skill they might not otherwise receive. Code in the Schools is one of several computer skill teaching organizations in Baltimore, including Blackgirlscode.com and several coding boot camps.

Code in the Schools teaches teachers advanced computer skills that they can then pass on to their students, among other things. “We do professional development for teachers, so recognizing that we can’t be in all places at once, we teach teachers how to implement coding into their classrooms,” said the Communications Director, Charlotte James.

The organization puts its computer teachers into select city schools to teach semester-long courses. While Code in the Schools would like to provide more, there are certain obstacles keeping them from doing so.

“One of the challenges though is that our ideal is that we would like to place them [students] in internships and paid internships,” said James. “But it’s challenging to find internship placement for high school students who may not be able to give more than an hour and a half up to two hours a day, so that’s hard.”

Funded by private foundations, grants, corporate sponsors and donors, Code in the Schools offers programs, events, and developmental resources. One, called the Prodigy Program, not only teaches advanced computer programming skills, it also offers resume, interview, and conflict resolution skills.

Experienced and knowledgeable lecturers guide students through a variety of computer science topics.

“The students work on different projects together to learn the skills that they’re interested in. So there’s like a team of guys building a video game, there’s some working on an overdose prevention app for a citywide tech health competition,” said James. The program is free for students.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for most if not all occupations. The field is expected to add about 488,500 new jobs, from about 3.9 million jobs to about 4.4 million jobs from 2014 to 2024.

Computer science is critical to many of the biggest companies in the U.S., but it remains marginalized throughout many K-12 schools. Only 33 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, according to Code.org.

For many of these students in Prodigy Program, computing isn’t just a hobby or a way to make money, it’s a lifestyle. Tavon Brandford, an intern at Code in the Schools, says that although it can be challenging at times, you can still find the fun in coding, especially if you like video games.

“If you’re interested in playing video games and computers and stuff, you should make a living out of it. Come join the program.”