Teaching New Orleans Kids How to Code

All over New Orleans there is a large swath of youth who are underserved and often go under our collective radar. According to the Cowen Institute there are currently just under 16,000 New Orleans youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and jobless. When you see the words ‘Opportunity Youth’ this is the demographic it’s referring to. The impact of having such a significant portion of our population with limited options has a devastating effect on our communities.

A Canadian turned New Orleanian named John Fraboni moved back down to New Orleans in 2013, after a short hiatus, and decided to start running bootcamps in local community centers where he taught kids basic coding skills. Fast forward to 2014 where Mr. Fraboni was accepted into 4.0 Schools‘ launch program, an incubator for education startups, and over the course of three months he prototyped what Operation Spark would look like on a larger scale. He ran a bootcamp out of 4.0 Schools that taught 10 local kids the fundamentals of javascript, how to use the command line, and setting up a web server with node.js. You can get the gist of their experience in this video:

A core part of attending a class at Operation Spark is learning the everyday life skills needed to be a part of the workforce outside of purely software skills. Among other things, Operation Spark teaches mantra such as “fully accept others and yourself,” “listen first, talk second,” and “don’t be a jerk.” Fraboni recently won 4.0 Schools’ pitch competition up in New York City and walked away with over $12,000 to fund the development of his new non-profit which is now a tax exempt 501c3 entity.

Operation Spark is currently running a weekly class called Spark Club that is an extension of their first program, Bootcamp. The third, most ambitious level of programming happens over the course of a year and is called Studio Spark. Launching in January, Studio Spark will bring 10 to 15 Opportunity Youth into an intensive environment where they’re learning software skills and building real software products for clients and getting paid for it. At the end of the the year, after having gained the skillset needed to get hired at a junior developer position, students will work at local software firms Operation Spark has partnered with.

This Saturday at the end of NOLA Tech Week Operation Spark is holding an event called Code & Conquer where students will be showing off the apps they’ve built while also teaching some code to attendees. If you’re interested in learning some code while consuming free food/drink this Saturday afternoon you can RSVP right below.