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Coding dreams

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Many young people from diverse backgrounds face financial barriers to accessing higher-level education in the US. This can impede their chances of finding well-paid employment, and oblige them to take several, low-paid jobs just to get by. Based in Durham, North Carolina, Code the Dream is working to take these barriers down.

Code the Dream offers free, intensive training in software development to people from low-income, immigrant or minority backgrounds who would often not be able to afford to go to university. It helps these individuals get a foothold on the job ladder for higher-paid work, which is normally only accessible for people with higher-level education. The project targets undocumented young immigrants residing in the US who came into the country with their parents. Because they lack citizenship, these young people are blocked from federal financial aid and have a particularly challenging time attending university.

“The thing I really love about Code the Dream and programming in general is that it’s skill-based,” said Crystal Williams-Brown, junior developer at Code the Dream. “You don’t necessarily need a degree to enter the programming industry.”

In the first phase of the Code the Dream programme, a cohort of up to 20 students receive free, hands-on-training in computer programming and other sought-after skills. Following the training, students can either seek employment outside the classroom or enter phase two of the programme – Code the Dream Labs (CTD Labs), where they are paid to work as developers on apps and websites for social justice organisations across the state. “We really want to give people from diverse communities and backgrounds the opportunity to participate in this part of our growing economy and to give back to their community,” said Dan Rearick, executive director at Code the Dream. After around six months to one year of working in CTD Labs, most students are able to take their new skills to higher-paying careers in tech and software development.

Recently, Code the Dream developers created and expanded several apps and websites to help with the pandemic response, addressing everything from the initial shortage of masks during the Covid-19 crisis, to the meals public school students were missing due to school closures. Andrea Guzman, a junior developer at Code the Dream, understood first-hand the importance of meals provided by school systems, having once relied on them herself. During her time at CTD Labs, Andrea developed an app for the Durham Public Schools Foundation to facilitate the delivery of over 300,000 meals to families in need. Andrea’s story is just one of many of how Code the Dream is a “win-win” for everyone – getting young people the experience they need to follow their dreams and make better lives for themselves, while also giving back to the community. And the proof of its success is in the pudding: over the last two years, Code the Dream has grown by over 500 per cent, and still it cannot keep up with demand for its programmes.

If you would like to know more about the Code the Dream grant, please watch this video. You can also check out its website here. This grant falls under our Special Interest Progamme, which reflects the Trustees’ interests in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative, and challenging grants. You can read more about the programme here.