Nice! Homeless Teens Taught to ‘Code’ at Boston Shelter


*There is little more honorable than stepping outside of the proverbial box and taking a chance on something — especially when it comes from  a sincere desire to empower another. I am thinking of Brookview House, a homeless shelter and affordable housing complex in the Dorchester Center neighborhood of Boston; where a group of volunteers come together to teach teens aged 13 to 18 how to code.

Now, I’m no “techie,” but I do know that anyone living on planet earth without computer skills in this day and age is either unemployed, underemployed or somewhere in between. Technology is both the “wave of the present AND the future” and knowledge of how to work your way around a computer (not to mention a mac) is more likely to not only get you a job, but keep you on one longer than someone with limited computer skills.

So imagine knowing how to actually CREATE code. Hell, now we’re talking building your own tech business and just sitting back and waiting for the customers to roll in.

I pray this incredibly thoughtful experiment (for lack of another word because it is unprecedented) catches on with similar establishments.

The “class” has been taking place over the past school year and the students are learning how to code small programs, apps, and even video games in Scratch and Python, according to the shelter’s executive director, Deborah Hughes, who explained that all the girls in the club are either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“We decided to start this club two years ago because we believe in all the beautiful possibilities for these girls,” Hughes told ABC News today. “We know getting girls into the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] field[s] is a challenge, but we know what our girls are capable of and that they can overcome any challenges.”


37-year-old Charity Leschinski, an instructor at the program, works full-time as a software developer, told ABC News that her favorite part about volunteering is “seeing the girls gain more confidence.”

And club member, Shanice Escossery, said that she wasn’t so keen on the idea of computer science when she first learned of the class, but now she’s thinking about pursuing it in higher education in the future.

“I thought it wasn’t my thing at first,” she said. “I’m definitely now more interested in technology. I’ve been getting better grades in math. I used to struggle, but now I’m getting A’s.”

The STEM program is bringing about all kinds of changes in these girls’ thinking.

“They’re realizing a lot of things are possible for them,” including fields in STEM that many girls were previously intimidated by, Leschinski said. “I have a girl who now wants to be a doctor, another who wants to go to law school. It’s wonderful.”

Yes it is, Ms. Leschinski. And I for one am over here grinning like a Cheshire cat at all of the possibilities.

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