Last Friday, 10 students graduated from the Highlander Code Camp, a joint venture between the AIM Institute and the community revitalization organization Seventy Five North. For 7 weeks, students living in or attending school in North Omaha and receiving free or reduced lunch took intensive classes in the fundamentals of web design and development. They learned HTML, CSS, and Javascript with the help of Interface Web School instructor Kent Smotherman. By the end of camp, each student had built their own website.

Over 70 people attended the ceremony at the Highlander Accelerator Building, a community space in North Omaha featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and higher education satellite campuses. Attendees included family members and friends of the graduates, community supporters, and a representative of congressman Don Bacon, who invited graduates to participate in the 2019 Congressional App Challenge, an annual coding competition meant to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM.

Seventy Five North Project Coordinator Kashya Burrell addressed the audience, underscoring the momentous accomplishment Highlander students had achieved. 

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“Coding is not easy,” Burrell said. “Thank you for helping support the future tech talent community and some of the most creative individuals I have known.”

AIM Brain Exchange Executive Director Erin Lasiter also gave remarks. (The AIM Brain Exchange offers free technology education to youth who would not otherwise have the chance to experience it.)

Lasiter advised students to meet adversity head-on. She incorporated multiple quotes about achievement in her speech.

“You have worked hard these past seven weeks to achieve what you set out to do,” Lasiter said. “We are all so proud of you.”

After receiving their diploma, each student gave a presentation on the website they built, explaining why they made certain choices and what obstacles they had to overcome in developing their site. 

Students’ websites were developed on topics ranging from volleyball to photography to Fortnite to the Buffalo Bills.

One student made a touching memorial about his seven-month old niece who lost her life to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. His website integrated photos of his niece with information about SIDS.

In his presentation, he said working on the site offered a reprieve from grief, and that his time in Highlander Code Camp revitalized his worldview.

“Because of various experiences and challenges, I didn’t really care about anything. Now, I’m learning that that’s not the way to go,” he said. “This is not about the past. The future’s ahead of me.”

 



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