The coders at Mississippi Coding Academies aren’t just learning web design and Python–a few of them took a crash course in Swift, Apple’s coding language for iOS development, and then began teaching it to others in Jackson.
For years, the City of Jackson has had a “Summer Jobs Opportunity” program of one kind or another; for the first year of the program under Mayor Chowke Antar Lumumba, the city’s administration decided to give it a different spin. Dr. Robert Blaine, chief administrative officer, focused the program on teaching modern skills to help area high school students get job-ready.
“Essentially what we were doing is looking at the skillset that’s necessary for employment in the 21st Century,” Blaine said. “We’re looking to transform our existing programs to focus on developing those skills for kids who are going to be in higher-ed or starting a career in the next three to four years.”
The result is a program in partnership with Apple that Blaine says is one-of-a-kind, and may serve as a model for cities in years to come.
The Mayor’s Summer Job Opportunities Coding Training is a project spearheaded by the Jackson mayor’s office, which has formed a partnership with Apple, Innovate Mississippi, Mississippi Coding Academies, Jackson Public Schools, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Mississippi e-Center Foundation, Mississippi Development Authority, and five local businesses to teach computer coding to high school students as part of the city’s Summer Jobs Program.
High school students in the program will spend four weeks learning Apple Swift–the coding language for iPhones and iPads. The instructors for the program are coders in the current cohort of the Mississippi Coding Academies: Aquita Bryant, Rishard Bell, D’Ebonie Johnson and Amber Taylor.
The instructors are self-taught in Swift, which was a language unfamiliar to them. They developed a rigorous curriculum in order to teach the classes. This was on top of maintaining their commitment to project deadlines for their own coding projects and working jobs at night to support themselves.
The high schoolers in the Summer Jobs Program are paid $9 per hour while they participate in the training, which includes a period of “consulting” for Mississippi corporations, where they’ll work on a project and deliver an app that the company would like to see produced.
The Mississippi eCenter loaned iPads to the effort for Swift programming; Jackson State University offered up laptops for when the students switched to Apple’s Xcode environment.
“Apple has said that they want to send a team down from Cupertino to observe this because this is the first program of it’s kind in the country and they want to expand and replicate,” said Blaine. “This has been an incredibly positive experience that we need to build upon so that the students have this experience year around; now we’re looking at what kinds of after-school programs and other types of partnerships we can create.”
(Top photo courtesy Apple Inc.)