By Ukee Washington


Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook  | Twitter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia nonprofit is teaching hundreds of children – some as as young as 8 – to code.

You could call Ashlei Perry a code coach.

“We are going to build a nav bar from scratch,” she tells the room. She is guiding Jack, Chase, Joshua, Paul, and Micah through a lesson in HTML at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in Philadelphia.

Eight-year-old Micah Topche explained that when it comes to coding, “You can’t just like start typing, and then just like everything will work. You have to make tags and put stuff in tags.”

“I have kids who have never written a single line before,” Ashlei said, “and they fall head over heels into a project.”

Ashlei is a senior instructor for the nonprofit Coded by Kids, which teaches programming to children from third to 12th grade.

“I’ve learned how to make CSS and HTML tags,” said 8-year-old Chase Hui.

CEO Sylvester Mobley started Coded for Kids five years ago. From the start, classes were free.

“That’s intentional,” Mobley said. “We want to make sure there are no barriers for young people to get into these things.”

Every week, Coded by Kids teaches 300 to 450 kids, focusing on groups underserved or under-represented in the tech industry.

“If technology is the largest driver of growth in your economy but you shut out large groups of people, you’ve essentially shut out large groups of people from economic opportunity and economic growth,” Mobley said.

Developer and business owner Mjumbe Poe is both a board member and a devoted volunteer.

“In order to be interested in anything, you first have to be exposed to it and have somebody take you through the early bumps,” Mjumbe said.

“They tell us what to do and how,” 8-year-old Joshua Suota said.

Ten-year-old Paul Campbell is already thinking about a career: “Be a scientist and a coder.”

So is 9-year-old Jack Aronson. “I really like baseball, but I’m probably not going to do it, so I might want to do something around baseball, like maybe do the statistics or something,” Jack said.

“You can dream it, you can build it, and we want to push our students as far as they can,” Ashlei said.

Some of the older students got so good, they now work on real-life web development projects and get paid at Coded by Kids’ web studio, Draft Studios.

Ukee Washington