New Program Offers Coding Skills for Inner-City Youth

by Josh Wolanin

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KidToPro“Have you ever had one of those moments where you realize this is the one thing you can’t afford not to do?”

Eric Nelson, founder of KidToPro, asks this question as we chat about his startup that now celebrates one year since he’s answered that call.

Focused on developing kids professional skills, KidToPro offers a software coding curriculum revolving around building applications for businesses.

The program consists of a 4-week web design and development bootcamp where students get hands on experience dealing with HTML/CSS and Ruby on Rails. After that, they are given an evaluation and decide whether or not they want to continue into contract work.

KidToPro aims to have all education aspects of the program online, using Treehouse as a learning platform, but also incorporating coaching at Hope Academy’s computer lab, using the methodology of the Flipped Classroom. So far, the coaches consist of Nelson and 3 other volunteers.

“The goal is to create fairly self-contained groups of students learning to code in every major city across the country, starting with Minneapolis,” says Nelson.  “Using the Flipped Classroom method, students gather together during the day to work and watch online coding tutorials when they go home at night.”

Nelson believes this approach will teach kids both how to present their work and how to properly give feedback, being both constructive and critical. So far the program has 8 admitted students, growing from an initial 4 that just completed their first websites.

Being a nonprofit outfit, KidToPro is raising money through Rally.org, a crowdfunder for causes such as this. As of today, they have raised $550 of their initial goal of $800, with the majority of that money going towards their Treehouse subscription. With the idea of an education bubble, most of the disruption in education is being concentrated on college, but Nelson believes it is also taking place in K – 12.

“All education should lead to value creation,” Nelson explains. “And all students should create value.”

With this in mind, Nelson measures growth with two metrics: number of graduates and the number of projects completed satisfactorily. This allows him to gauge both the value created for the students, but also the impact the students are having outside of KidToPro.

KidToPro recently made it to the semi-finalist round in the Social Division of the Minnesota Cup, and Nelson mentions that although his first presentation wasn’t his best, the right idea is there, and he is working on refining for the upcoming finalist round.

While KidToPro is in an early growth phase, Nelson hopes to eventually make the program nationwide. So far, one of the eight students in the program is using Google Hangouts to participate in sessions, and this gives Nelson hope that KidToPro can scale to a nationwide level.

“I’m concentrating on building a functional prototype, and then going from there,” he says.

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