BOSTON—On Sunday, April 26, 16 young women of color from the Boston area will be the first graduates from “Intro to G|Code,” a program offered through a partnership between The G|Code House and the Boston Public Library (BPL). The free 10-week course teaches fundamental web development skills, providing exposure to coding that allows participants to gauge their interest in STEM education and pursue it further if they so desire. Despite COVID-19 forcing a mid-course shift from in-person instruction at the BPL’s Central Library to remote learning at home, as well as a virtual graduation ceremony, the program has retained 100% of its students.
“One of the best gifts these young women could receive is the gift of investing in oneself, and that’s exactly what they’ve done,” said Bridgette Wallace, G|Code founder and executive director. “I’m proud of them for being self-motivated enough to not only apply for and start the program, but to stick with it when the structure changed drastically. I will forever be in awe of their commitment, perseverance, and resilience.”
When G|Code contacted BPL Community Learning Supervisor Jessica Elias about partnering on the introductory program, she jumped at the opportunity. Elias arranged for the program to be held in the Central Library’s computer lab, gave the students a demonstration of BPL services, and helped each of them get a library card.
“G|Code is perfectly aligned with the BPL’s principles of being a user-centered institution with programs that serve neighborhood interests, demographics, and needs; sustain communities; and provide technology access and training,” Elias said.
Fifty percent of the women in this inaugural Intro to G|Code graduating class have experienced homelessness or housing instability; 44 percent have not obtained more than a high school degree or GED; and only two individuals had any previous exposure to computer science. The introductory program’s tech training, professional and personal development workshops, and exposure to Boston tech companies and additional learning opportunities are designed to provide footing on a career path that promotes lifelong stability.
“Going into the program, I was unsure about my place in the tech world and if I even wanted to change fields and start a new career path. Now, having learned some of the basics, I feel more confident in my ability to make waves in the industry and leave my impact,” said Sagal Alisalad, a G|Code student.
“I have wanted to learn to code for many years, but couldn’t afford a boot camp or university program, said Nicole Ampofo, another student. “G|Code is very inclusive, and I decided to apply, because I felt like I belonged with women who look like me and are working on the same goals.”
Ultimately, the G|Code House — a 6,000 square-foot Victorian in Roxbury that Wallace purchased in 2018 — will offer a safe co-living, working, and learning community. A more intensive 24-month program will comprise tech training, internship/co-op placement, specialty training (e.g., cyber security), and mentorship throughout. The end goal is to close the STEM gender and race gap, boost earning potential, and enable women of color ages 18 to 25 to remain in their communities despite the rising housing costs that are displacing many residents.
Due to overwhelming interest, the G|Code team also intends to continue offering the 10-week introductory program, and Elias said they will have a home at the Boston Public Library. “We hope to house future programs in branch libraries in the communities where the young women live, like Nubian Square,” she said. “The BPL sees this as a long-lasting partnership.”
Photos by Corban Swain.