Coding program for minorities leads to affordable housing app

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Nestled in a second floor Columbia Road row house is not your typical coding classroom, and Terri Acker is not your typical student.

"I never thought I would be in a class like this especially at my age," said Acker.

At 51 years old, the Anacostia grandmother is diving head first into the world of technology, thanks to Code for Progress: a first of its kind, intense four-month-long program designed to teach these activists how to code and develop apps. Acker is working on an application to link her struggling Anacostia neighbors and the homeless to affordable housing in and outside D.C.

"I'm putting my best foot forward and I hope to help my community," explained Acker. "I hope to help social workers find more affordable housing options they may not be aware of outside of D.C."

The 12 students in the class come from all cross the country and beat out more than 400 applicants. Since many are parents or heads of households, they get paid $3,000 a month to attend class.

"We do need to open our wallets and actually materially invest in people as well so they can take the time to not have to work three jobs and try to learn something at the same time," said program director Aliya Rahman. Rahman explained that the program is also trying to change the face of coding, opening the field to more women and minorities of all ages.

"These are all folks who are used to really like watching how the world works understanding how people interact with each other and hustling and figuring out how to get stuff done when you don't have official credentials," Rahman said, "my hope is that programs like this show us can redefine like what makes good technology and what makes a good technologist. I think we have it in that room."

The classroom instruction ends after four months. But the teaching continues with a full time mentor who guides students through networking, resume building, and job placement. The goal is to get their app up and running in a years time.

Code for Progress is funded through grants and private donations.


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