There’s a big difference between talking about making a difference and actually making a change.
Resilient Coders (RC)— a nonprofit based out of the CIC in Boston that teaches underserved, at-risk, and super smart young people to code — is a program that is actually making change. The program takes kids from diverse backgrounds, teaches them to code, and gives them opportunities to work in tech — opportunities that they may not have otherwise.
RC hand-picks students from their coding boot camps to enter Resilient Labs, where they are paired with organizations that need services, like websites. We’re talking taking kids from correctional facilities, urban neighborhoods, and low-income families, and training them to build websites from scratch for local schools, organizations, and mom & pop shops. Resilient Labs projects have led to internships and jobs for kids who may not have the resources available to them to break into the tech industry. RC is working to make tech more equitable by making tech jobs accessible to all.
“I have this belief that tech has a responsibility to go hand in hand with social progress,” David Delmar, founder of Resilient Codes, told MSNE. “We have lost touch with that ethos, that sense of responsibility.”
“I personally am allergic to talk. I’m so over it.”
Delmar got the idea to start his program at a giant tech conference in Texas, circa 2008. He looked around at the tens of thousands of people there and counted 14 African Americans. Brilliant technicians sat around talking about sophisticated solutions to trivial problems, like how to make an app that condensed tabs on your computer — he couldn’t believe how disconnected these people were from the problems that really needed solving. They were talking behind closed doors, not getting out to the places that actually need help.
“When I counted maybe 14 people of color out of 10s of thousands. That’s a real problem. That’s an actual problem. I started trying to code my way out of it,” Delmar said. “But It’s not a software problem. It is a people problem. It is a roll up your sleeves and get in there problem.”
Resilient Coders is full of stories of kids who came from difficult backgrounds, and through the program, were able to turn their lives around and reach inspiring heights in the tech space. One of those kids is Brian.
Brian immigrated to the US with his mother and sister from Mexico. The turning point in his life that led him to Resilient Coders was during his freshman year at Northeastern, when his family was suddenly evicted by a developer in East Boston. Though he was doing really well in school, the incident led Brian to drop out of college.
“I realized that a piece of paper had more power than everything. A piece of paper can take you out of your own home,” Brian explained in an interview with Be Visible. “I also realized that the only way to feel empowered was to find a way, a career path that was stable. I wasn’t finding that in college… I felt like it was going to take too long for me to actually have a sustainable career if I followed the traditional route. And I just wasn’t fulfilled.”
The day after the election, Brian came in to Resilient Coders, and was totally ashen-faced. He approached Delmar and said, “Del, I feel like my mother has worked so hard to set me and my sisters up in this country, and this country that I love has just told me that I’m not welcome here.”
He and Brian’s conversation led them to start a program called #CommitResilience, which is an invitation for people to do something about hate crimes by promoting inclusion and peace. On the Commit Resilience website, you can share commitments you’re making to make your world more accessible to members of disenfranchised communities.
“If you’re mad, good. Be mad. But do something with it. Be productively mad,” Delmar said to Brian and to MSNE. “If you want to protest, go ahead, do so. But you can also protest with the very nature of your own success.”
“Be exactly the type of person who people out there think you cannot be. Be someone who contributes meaningfully to society. Who works to give others access to the American Dream, even to the people who don’t believe that you have access to it yourself.”
To the tech community, Delmar has the same message. “I have companies come up to me all the time asking how they can help and I say: stop talking and take action. Hire these kids.”
“I really need you to rethink what it will take to address the diversity crisis, and to be open to the possibility that you and your company might not be doing anything about it right now. Even if you think you are,” Delmar wrote in an opinion piece for The Boston Globe. “I need you to think differently about a problem we’ve consistently failed to solve.”
Read The White House’s recent blog featuring Brian here. Watch the below video by MassTLC, featuring both David and Brian. And head to resilientcoders.org to hire some of the brightest programmers around.
Tags: #HourOfCode, Boston, cambridge, coding, coding literacy, computer programming, Computer Science Education Week, CSEdWeek, David Delmar, Hour of Code, MassTLC, microsoft, Microsoft New England, New England, Resilient Coders, STEM