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After-school Programs Jump into Hour of Coding

By: STELL SIMONTON | December 9, 2014 View as “Clean Read”

Want to learn a little HTML, JavaScript or C?

Some after-school programs are helping kids — and their parents — do just that.

Kids in the Philadelphia out-of-school program known as ASIR (And Still I Rise) will invite their parents to sit down this week and work on computer programming together.

Parents of kids in Youth on the Move, a Harlem after-school program, are invited to a Christmas tree lighting on Friday. There, they can whip out their mobile devices and play with some simple coding.

It’s all part of the Hour of Code, a worldwide project to introduce more kids to coding.

The majority of events are taking place in schools, but some after-school programs are jumping on the bandwagon with fervor.

Hour of Code is the brainchild of the nonprofit Code.org, which urges schools and other organizations to offer the free coding tutorials Monday through Friday this week. The tutorials are available on the Code.org website and are designed for all levels.

As of last week, more than 35,000 schools and other groups in the United States had signed up to take part, according to Code.org.

The mantra of Code.org is that everyone can learn computer coding.

Computer science jobs are growing twice as fast as other jobs, but too few college students are majoring in the subject, according to Code.org. In fact, the number of people majoring in computer science has dropped since the last decade, the website says. In addition, minorities and women are underrepresented in the field.

ASIR and Youth on the Move both serve low-income kids and seek to increase their access to technology.

“Our youth need to be able to know how to engage,” said Harold Byrd, an electrical engineer and computer science instructor at ASIR.

The program has about 58 students ages 8 to 18 enrolled. About 15 will be taking part in the Hour of Code each day this week at 6 p.m., said ASIR founder Krisha Coppedge.

Students have already been introduced to HTML, a coding language used to create websites.

This week they will get started on JavaScript and C through online tutorials that are much like video games, Byrd said.

Coppedge started ASIR in May. Named for a Maya Angelou poem, the youth development program seeks to address educational inequalities and equip students to join a 21st-century workforce.

ASIR and Youth on the Move are drawing parents into coding because the organizations’ leaders believe low-income people have not had enough access to technology.