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Youth Tech Literacy- Coding at the Y


When I was in middle school I longed for a computer to play Oregon Trail and Solitaire. Having a personal computer was not as common as it is today and I was fortunate to have one in my house. However, having a teacher for a mother meant that my spare time was spent doing math workbooks and earning my allowance by writing in journals. Playing on the computer was not seen as a priority or an educational experience. 

Today, screens are everywhere you turn, easily accessible, and in many forms; phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Schools and policy makers are pushing for more computer science courses. Coding classes are being used to not only teach a specialized skill but as a tool to teach youth communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Computer technology is all around us and becoming a crucial part of 21st-century learning and career opportunities. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg says, “An understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. Our national competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our children—and that includes our girls—in this critical field.”

Beyond playing Oregon Trail and Solitaire, I believe that at the YMCA of SF, we have a responsibility to prepare our next generation of leaders to respond to this emerging field; as such, this spring I was fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with the Capital One Community Affairs and Engineering Teams to bring STE[A]M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) education to our middle school youth in the Western Addition at Gateway Middle School.The Capital One Coders (C1 Coders) launched its first San Francisco program at the Buchanan YMCA's Gateway Afterschool Program. Since its 2014 beginning, C1 Coders has served 2,500 middle school students who have created over 500 new mobile apps.


Our students attended 10 weeks of free classes where they worked one-on-one with volunteers from the Capital One Engineering Department. Each week students worked through a lesson that taught the fundamentals of software engineering through hands-on learning and mobile app development.  

The program ended with a culminating event at the Capital One SOMA offices. Friends and family were invited to see student demonstrations of the apps they created. Students were given awards for Best Creative, Best User-Friendly, and Best Overall App. They walked away from the program with the knowledge of coding fundamentals and a new laptop to continue learning and creating. 

"Access to this quality program and tools will help our young people be prepared for significant opportunities in their educational and career pursuits."

- Nancy Hernandez, Buchanan YMCA - Teen Programs Specialist

The YMCA of San Francisco has identified STE[A]M programming as a priority initiative. Learn More about what we are doing and how you can support!