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Code Crew Code School helps connect young adults in Memphis with $60,000-a-year jobs

Marangeli Lopez

Memphis Commercial Appeal

Published: 8:00 a.m. CT Aug. 4, 2018 | Updated: 11:28 a.m. CT Aug. 5, 2018

Caleb Canada receives help from teacher Kevin Yancy during Code Crew's new Code School on July 20, 2018, at Crosstown Concourse.

A program in Memphis is giving young adults a ticket to a middle-class salary.

Code Crew Code School is training 16 young adults to become entry-level software engineers, earning $60,000 a year, for free. What would normally take a four-year degree to complete is taught in the group's inaugural six-month coding boot camp.

“Once we get in, we hit the ground coding,” student Jordan Parker said.

Every day, students meet at 9 a.m. on the third floor of the Crosstown Concourse where Tech901’s campus is housed. The next eight hours are spent learning programming languages, going over previously assigned homework and completing daily tasks.

“Three hours here feels like 30 minutes. It’s always engaging, it’s always hands on,” Parker said about the course flow. He is one of the 16 alpha class members. He learned about Code Crew after his mother nominated him for a spot.

“It was the opportunity I needed to get my career going,” he said, adding he had minimal prior coding experience. “Even if you don’t have experience with technology, the instructors will work with you.”

Parker recently graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor's degree in audio production. He struggled to find a well-paying position after college, and he moved back to Memphis.

His interest in web developing became stronger after he joined technology groups in Memphis. A career in programming felt right for him, but he didn’t have the experience.

“I couldn’t afford to go back to school, and taking out more loans was definitely not an option,” Parker said.

Teacher Kevin Yancy, right, helps Mareco Nabors during Code Crew's new Code School on July 20, 2018, at Crosstown Concourse.

“We at Code Crew exist to bring quality computer science education to Memphis,” Code Crew Executive Director Meka Egwuekwe said.

Code Crew launched three years ago, teaching after-school programs, summer camps, in-school electives and pop-up classes. The group focused on teaching elementary, middle and high school-aged children computer science.

Many students excelled during the lessons and wanted to pursue further education, but family income levels restricted some students from going to a college, Egwuekwe said.

One of Egwuekwe’s brightest high school graduates wanted to pursue a computer science degree, but college was not an option for him. The student kept in touch with Egwuekwe as he searched for alternatives and found a six-month program in Nashville. The student had relatives in the area, moved, completed the school and now has a full-time entry-level position earning more than $60,000 a year.

“It’s a shame that a young man has to go to another city to do something like this,” Egwuekwe said.

Egwuekwe didn’t just sit around and wait for a similar program to develop in Memphis; he created one himself.

He met with contacts in large companies such as FedEx and Start Co., to name a few, and learned about the high need for web developers in Memphis.

“The need was there for students to learn and employers to hire,” Egwuekwe said.

Code Crew Code School was born soon after. The program is competitive; to apply students must first be nominated on the website. Once nominations are reviewed, the Code Crew team reaches out to potential students to complete an aptitude test and interview.

The school is free and starts every six months.

“The only thing we ask is for students to show up every day,” Egwuekwe said.

To ensure the program stays free, students sign an income-sharing agreement that states once students complete the program and are hired they will pay Code Crew a percentage of their income for a few years.

“We are committed to getting them placed in entry-level positions after the program is complete,” Egwuekwe said.

Check out The Commercial Appeal article here

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