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All Star Code Summer Intensive is developing a new generation of entrepreneurs

Stephanie Hacke
February14/ 2018

Last year, Jerome McCree Jr., 15, made a list of possible careers he could pursue once he graduates from high school: Become a doctor. Join the army. Create an app …

Then it hit him: Why wait?

First, the Penn Hills teen came up with an idea for an app. The concept is similar to Uber and Airbnb, he says, but for a different market.

Then came time for designing the app and pulling it together. But how would he do that?

Luckily, Jerome’s mom heard about the 2017 All Star Code Summer Intensive program, which launched in Pittsburgh last year and ran for six weeks at Chatham University.

As part of the program, Jerome, a student at Serra Catholic High School, joined 17 other kids to learn how to code, build a website and tour technology hubs throughout Pittsburgh. He made personal connections, who are helping him start a business with his app.

Registration for the 2018 All Star Code Summer Intensive program is underway at for rising high school juniors and seniors. The free program will be held July 9 to Aug. 17 at Pittsburgh universities. The goal of All Star Code is to close wealth, income and opportunity gaps for minorities. The nonprofit organization focuses on motivating kids of color, a group that is under-represented in the AP Computer Science Exam.

“We are exposing them to things they otherwise wouldn’t have had exposure to,” says Sean Gray, Pittsburgh area director. “You can’t just walk up to Google, but we’re opening those doors for them.”

Participants receive a laptop, lunch, snacks and a bus pass or CONNECT card.

In Pittsburgh, the program is primarily funded through local foundations and corporations, along with businesses based in New York.

Throughout the summer program, teens work together and bond as a group.

“It’s this brotherhood that they’re creating,” Gray says.

Another plus: The kids get to experience what college life is like while in high school, taking classes on campus throughout the summer.

Last year, they toured technology offices including Google, BNY Mellon’s Innovation Centers, Energy Innovation Center and Schell Games.

Jerome presented his app during the program’s graduation-style “Demo Day.” There, he stood out to a developer from BNY Mellon. The developer approached him and offered to meet with him – as a kind of mentor – to show him how to turn his app into a business.

Since then, Jerome has been involved in a weekly after-school program with Google, where he’s received help from Google staffers.

He credits much of his achievements to All Star Code’s Summer Intensive Program.

“If I never got that call… I don’t think I would be nearly close to where I am,” Jerome says. “There’s just so many things that have happened to me because of All Star Code that I am so thankful for.”

A number of free summer computer science programs are currently recruiting students who are underrepresented in technology.  Interested parents and kids can learn more at a session from 6-7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Google @ Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Hear about programs like the Google Computer Science Summer InstituteAll Star Code Summer IntensiveAcademy Pittsburgh Beta BuildersY Creator Space at the Homewood YMCAAssemble Summer Camps. These and other summer computer science program will offer brief overviews, allowing for time to ask questions afterward. Questions? Reach Sean Gray here.

Stephanie Hacke

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