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As of this month, Hack Reactor is hosting hackEDU, an organization that supports high school coding clubs, on an ongoing basis. HackEDU, started by Zach Latta and Jonathan Leung, is less than a year old, but has already accomplished an impressive amount. After a trial run last Spring, the organization ramped up, and is now working with over 30 high school coding organizations. HackEDU connects these clubs with a growing set of resources and a support network.
“We maintain a bunch of partnerships with companies that get [the high school clubs] free access to tools that they can use, but the real value of hackEDU is the community,” says Latta. “We have all these organizers, many of whom are running very successful coding clubs, and many of whom are just getting started. When you get access to this community, suddenly you have all these people who can help you create your own club and grow your own club to be whatever you want it to be.”
The high school clubs, which are located all around the U.S. and beyond, including one in India, can access and contribute to GitHub repositories, and also connect through a Facebook group, a newsletter and regular calls.
Both Leung and Latta have found that the youth of the clubs’ founders and participants has not gotten in the way of their success.
“We underestimate the legitimacy of younger people,” says Leung. “For instance, one of our organizers is contributing to the new version of Fedora,” an operating system for Engineers. “A lot of organizations look at their high school constituency as a group that needs to be guided and managed, but these guys are leading their clubs.”
Both have found that students are more engaged by coding clubs than standard high school computer science classes.
“I don’t think you can find a single human that doesn’t like to create things,” says Leung. “It’s not that people grow up, it’s that we educate them out of it.” While the coding clubs are all about building programs, many computer science classes, Leung noted, are more about learning a few theoretical elements well enough to get a good grade.
Leung and Latta have even found that learning to code can provide a confidence boost that creates ripple effects in other subjects.
“I have a friend who was a terrible middle school student, and his parents got him a great tutoring service, and that didn’t really help,” Leung describes. The tutoring service also offered coding classes, and his friend started to learn some basics. Before long, he was spending lots of his time coding.
“Looking back,” says Leung, “he thinks he gained confidence and problem-solving abilities [through coding]. That translated into more success in his other classes, like history and biology, and he became a top student. By the time he got to college, he was taking senior-level classes as a freshman.”
In time, hackEDU may coordinate with Hack Reactor on projects with students and staff who want to get involved.
“Hack Reactor has been super helpful,” says Latta. “We’re really excited to see where this goes.”
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