As 2017 came to a close, Alexandra Liggins, co-founder of South Bend Code School, found herself on stage with some of tech’s most notable executives: Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, and Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. The reason? South Bend Code School was honored with an inaugural “Champions for Computer Science” award, in celebration of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), held in early December.
As one of 14 awardees selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 nominees, the awards, jointly administered by Code.org and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), honor the students, teachers, schools, districts, and organizations on the forefront of the national computer science education movement in the United States. Liggins accepted the award on behalf of the company at a special 2017 CSEdWeek kickoff event in San Francisco, which featured top tech executives as well as several U.S. governors, including Governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana.
Sharing the dais with these women was meaningful for Liggins. Since South Bend Code School’s founding in 2015, she has made the education of women and underrepresented minorities a central focus of the company’s work. Students receiving education have been 47% female and 56% underrepresented, minority students — no small feat considering the large gender gap in technology positions nationwide.
Notably, last October, Liggins was named a 2017 Women of Color STEM Award Winner at the national Women of Color STEM conference in Detroit in recognition for her efforts to not only increase diversity in tech but also educate the next generation of employees who will fill technology roles in the future.
The speakers at the Code.org event also considered access to computer science education and the tech skills gap in their remarks. Code.org notes that there are approximately 500,000 unfilled tech jobs in the United States in every state and industry, and projects that these jobs will grow at twice the rate as other jobs.
South Bend Code School is tackling this challenge head on in Indiana. The company began its programming just two years ago with 19 students, all of whom had little to no prior coding experience. Today, the South Bend Code School has worked with hundreds of youth, introducing them to coding through the development of community-based apps, community presentations and visits to leading tech companies. The company also hosts coding alumni programs for students to continue learning after their formal instruction, and offers students opportunities such as job and internship placement, college and scholarship application assistance, and tutoring in core academic areas.
Plans for South Bend Code School in 2018 include continued classes and programming in South Bend and Fort Wayne, along with further expansion. To learn more, visit southbendcodeschool.com.