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Image © Code the Dream

From online shopping to booking appointments and keeping in touch with friends, there’s an app for every aspect of our lives. As a result, software developers are in high demand. Recognising a market opportunity, not-for-profit organisation Code the Dream, based in Durham, North Carolina, developed a programme that offers free, intensive training in software development, to young people from diverse, low-income backgrounds.

Code the Dream aims to foster win-win situations, where coders gain real work experience building apps that make the world a better place, such as for a range of startups, not-for-profit organisations, and government clients. Two of the many apps the coders have helped create are Vamos, which helps outreach workers connect with migrant farmworker communities, and So Much Potential, a tool to help people plan for college, regardless of their immigration status.

In the Code the Dream training programme, coders work with experienced mentors to hone their skills by building apps and technology platforms. After their training, coders can use their work experience to launch new careers and find new, well-paid work opportunities.

The free classes and support are made possible by volunteers like software engineer Andres Alcocer, who gives his time to review apprentices’ coursework and mentor them one-to-one. “Being able to connect with the students at a personal level motivates them to complete assignments and keep the momentum going,” he says.

“These are great career paths where people can make the life they want for themselves,” says co-executive director Dan Rearick. “But we also have diverse voices involved in making these technologies – it ensures we’re solving the right problems and solving them in a way that takes into account everyone’s needs.”

There were twice as many enrolments in the training programme in 2022 as in 2021, but Code the Dream hasn’t lost sight of its founding vision: “We’ve grown exponentially, but we’ve really stayed true to who we intend to serve,” says Daisy Magnus-Aryitey, who joined the organisation as one of its first students in 2015, and is now co-executive director. “Over 70 per cent of participants come from immigrant backgrounds and over 50 per cent are women. So, we see this diversity that is rich and exciting and rewarding.”

“I’m an immigrant and I wasn’t able to attend college here, but organisations like Code the Dream give you the chance to enter the technology community,” says apprentice Samantha Galindo. “Code the Dream has literally changed my life.”

Oak supports Code the Dream through a grant to the Triangle Community Foundation, a grant-making organisation that works to reduce inequality and address the most pressing issues in the Triangle region of North Carolina. These organisations are supported via Oak’s Special Interest Programme, which covers a wide range of fields, including environment, health, humanitarian relief, education, and the arts. This programme reflects the Trustees’ interests in making innovative grants. To find out more about Code the Dream, watch the video below: