PHOENIX — Kids in front of a computer is nothing new but these faces are part of a new generation of coding, one that’s becoming more diverse, thanks to people like Diana Lee Guzman.
“My background is computer science, software engineer by trade. And just going through college, going through the industry, there are not many women and minorities in the industry in college, you know, studying these, getting these degrees,” said Guzman.
That’s one of the reasons the Phoenix native founded Coding in Color, a nonprofit with the purpose of providing educational resources for underrepresented students in computing.
According to Data USA, only 9% of computer science degrees are awarded to Latinos, a demographic that makes up 18% of the U.S. population and 33% of Arizonans.
“What do you find when you reach out to those communities and try to plant that seed?” asked ABC15’s Javier Soto.
“A lot of the students that we teach, actually have never coded before, or it’s you know, they’ve coded maybe less than a year and they’re actually really curious and really excited and they’re seeking out these events, and these opportunities to continue to learn,” said Guzman.
So, Coding in Color started holding what they call Hackathons, an event where kids are taught coding in the beginning and then they compete against each other. Amazingly, the group has been able to light that spark in plenty of untapped talent.
That includes 17-year-old Kennett Ho, who won the very first Hackathon he participated in.
“It felt amazing since I had, this was like the first time actually doing something like that. And so winning, I felt like it pushed me into the field a bit more. So, it’s now I’m like, I know I’m capable of it and now I want to pursue it,” said Ho.
He tells us he was so inspired afterward he asked if he could volunteer with the group to continue to learn how to code while also helping other students.
“It feels really good knowing I’m helping bring like a change to my peers that may have not gotten the opportunity beforehand. And now a lot of them are able to get the experience and figure out what they want to do and how to do it,” said Ho.
“Is that kind of for you, like the proof is in the pudding? Like look what we’re doing?” asked Soto.
“Yes, exactly. And I think it’s also really valuable because we are teaching, you know, so many students along the way that when students reach out and they’re like ‘Hey, you know, how do I get involved?’ They’re obviously already curious,” said Guzman.
Guzman is going to be able to help even more students act on their curiosity after being awarded a $50,000 grant from Microsoft. Coding in Color was the only group from Arizona selected by Microsoft’s TechSpark program for the honor.
“Right now, what we have planned is to install three separate computer science programs at three separate high schools and we can serve anywhere between 15 to 25 students per school right now to get them certified in web development,” said Guzman.
This will help to make their nonprofit’s mission materialize.
“Why do you think that is, that minorities and women are underrepresented in that field?” asked Soto.
“A quote that I really like is that ‘Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.’ And that’s why we’re here, is to provide resources and opportunity to students in areas where they currently don’t exist,” said Guzman.
To learn more about Coding in Color visit codingincolor.net.