STOCKTON — Heaven Ennis was hooked from the moment she took her first coding class and realized she was on her way to learning to create apps and websites.

“I couldn’t get enough,” Heaven, 13, said during a break in her Girls Who Code class Thursday afternoon at Conway Homes’ office in south Stockton. “There was interesting stuff. It was pretty awesome.”

Heaven, a ninth-grade student at TEAM Charter School, was one of 14 girls who turned out for the class last week. At the moment, she and three other advanced students from the class are working on a special project — the app that will be used at Inland California Rising’s conference on Friday at University of the Pacific.


Inland California Rising is a collaboration of leaders statewide from cities like Stockton whose goal is to “turbo-charge progress” in the state’s inland communities. Any progress will rely to a large degree on how prepared the region’s young people are to play a significant role.

The Housing Authority of San Joaquin County hosts Girls Who Code clubs at the Conway Homes and Sierra Vista locations in Stockton. Thursday marked the start of the third 12-week session at Conway Homes.

The girls at Thursday’s class needed only to know the story of their instructor to realize the personal empowerment that comes from learning to code.

The instructor, 48-year-old Eric Vaughn, said he worked 17 years in construction but started considering new options when work became scarce during the Great Recession a decade ago.

Beginning in 2010, relying on YouTube videos and by asking questions in online chat rooms, Vaughn taught himself to code. He left construction and started his own web-design business in Stockton, and Vaughn said today he has clients from across the United States.

“Some get it a little faster,” Vaughn said. “I was slow at learning. Then you cross that threshold and you start picking it up a little more quickly.”

Vaughn preaches four core values to the girls he teaches: bravery, resilience, creativity and purpose.

He says he wants the girls to have the courage to speak publicly about themselves, the resolve to keep going despite inevitable setbacks and disappointments, the creativity to find new uses for the coding they are learning and the desire to pursue opportunities beyond Conway Homes.

“What I hope to achieve is to show them opportunities,” Vaughn said. “I’m hoping to instill empowerment with all the girls to be able to find their own way in life.”

Heaven, with her trademark pens tucked behind each ear, says she is able to imagine pursuing a career using the skills she is learning.

“Probably, like, an app maker,” she said when asked to predict her future work.

What kind of app?

“Probably an app that would help me,” Heaven said. “I always have trouble when I’m doing things for school. Probably something that could provide outlines, and all different kinds of things you would need for school. It would have a shopping section, and it would have outlines, basically anything you could possibly need.”


Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or Follow him at and on Twitter @rphillipsblog.

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