By: Varun Rajaram, 2015 American Youth Leadership Participant

CBI Snapshot blogs highlight the Community Based Initiatives (CBI) implemented by AMIGOS Youth Ambassador and American Youth Leadership participants in their local communities in the United States. Community Based Initiatives challenge young people to lead and collaborate with their communities for positive development. This snapshot comes from Varun Rajaram, a 2015 American Youth Leader Participant and junior in high school at Clements High School in Sugarland, TX and is a part of their Global Studies Academy.

Varun at a guitar factory in Ecuador during International exchange.
Varun at a guitar factory in Ecuador during International exchange.

Coding Club started out as a meager group of close to 10 students in a computer lab, after school on a humid Friday in October. Students who came this week had heard through the school announcements about a new club involving computer programming, and were intrigued to stay an extra hour after school on a Friday after a long week to see what our new club was all about. As our first lesson began, we looked out at a sea of backs turned to us, as students shared their new favorite computer games with each other while we tried, in vain, to explain the implications of a “variable”. The next week however, with the crucial addition of snacks at the front of the room, we had a very simple presentation of some basic concepts after which we gave them the rest of the time to be creative and explore. You could almost see the internal gears turning as students began to snap together blocks of code to make a character run forward, or a ball bounce. Eyes lit up as a line of code actually manipulated the objects on the screen. They were hooked.

While my initial intentions were simply to provide exposure and access to computer science opportunities in my community, I was met by a group of motivated students who took it upon themselves not only to learn computer coding, but also to achieve a level of mastery necessary for competition. After having had close to 2 months of instruction, two teams of two students each were motivated enough to compete in an area-wide coding competition using Scratch. Our teams wholly exceeded our expectations by placing 2nd and 3rd place overall in the contest, despite being the youngest and most inexperienced teams there.

Today, Coding Club offers parallel sessions of Basic Java, Scratch, and EV3 Robotics, with enrollment continuing to grow above 30 students coming every week. The energy and passion that these students bring to Coding Club every week makes the experience entirely worth it.

Participants at a coding competition
Participants at a coding competition