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Andrea J. Burney, APR

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IT Students Mentor Boys & Girls Club Youth With Computer Coding Project


IT Students With Boys, Girls Club

Danville Community College Information Technology students and faculty recently assisted Boys & Girls Clubs of the Danville Area youth with a computer coding project. Shown left to right, are (front row) DCC students Jessica Hardy and Spencer Walker; (second row) Boys & Girls Club youth DaiJuane’ Giggetts, Stephen Taylor, Takayla Oakes, Ashanti Walton, Wesley Graves and NyAnthony Wilson; Faith Stamps, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Danville Area; Heidi Kefauver, Education Programs Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Danville Area; Associate Professor Cassandra Satterfield; Boys & Girls Club youth Lamar Tanner; DCC student Justin Adkins, and Associate Professor Lisa Garneau; (back row) Jimmie Tickle, Dean of Business, and Engineering Technology; DCC President Dr. Bruce Scism; Dr. Christopher Ezell, Vice President of Academic and Student Services; and Clark Casteel, Senior Program Officer for the Danville Regional Foundation.

DANVILLE, VA, Oct. 13, 2014 – Danville Community College Information Technology (IT) students put service learning to action as they mentored youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Danville Area in a computer coding project brought to the area and funded by the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF). Virginia Advanced Study Strategies also was a partner in the project. School officials say this mentorship experience is one that both the Boys and Girls Club and DCC would like to see happen again in the near future.

Nine Boys and Girls Club youth, ages 11 to 14, learned about computer coding during the eight-month project, and developed their own fully-functional computer applications. The children learned the basics of computer coding in “Code Academy,? then worked closely with four DCC IT students in the Gaming and Mobile Application Development Specialization program to take their expertise to the next level. The participating DCC students included Jessica Hardy, Spencer Walker, Ryan Bryson and Justin Adkins. Associate Professor Cassandra Satterfield led the application development project.

“We needed to show young children how to design and create new projects,? Satterfield said. “I gave lectures on certain topics pertaining to what the students had covered in Code Academy and my students helped guide them through the creation and development of the programs.

“As a professor at DCC and parent to two young children, I would like to see more collaboration between (DCC) students and the community so we may expand the knowledge of technology in our service region,? Satterfield continued. “It was truly a moving experience to see the students of the Boys and Girls Club develop their skills and be able to showcase the projects. I now challenge them to further their skills and continue to learn about the creation process of application development.?

Clark Casteel, DRF Senior Program Officer, discussed the value of the project to all students involved. DRF provided a $5,000 grant to implement the project.

“To me the collaboration was potentially the greatest impact of this project – the mentorship that older students provided to the Boys and Girls (Club) students, I think, benefited all who participated in ways we may never be able to fully measure,? Casteel said. “DCC’s willingness to bring these kids on campus, open the facilities to them, show these children that continuing their education is possible, that learning can be fun…all of those things are just tremendous opportunities for the kids and the region.?

Satterfield explained the children and DCC students worked side by side on the applications in a team effort. Hardy, one of the DCC students, said she was impressed by how much the middle school students learned on their own in Code Academy. Hardy said the one-on-one interaction with the youth helped them learn even more about computer applications.

“It helped us to give them a chance to look into opportunities that they could have for their future careers,? Hardy said. “Technology is almost taking over the world. That’s what our society is leaning towards more every day.?

Examples of the applications created by the students include: an application that allows the user to convert the number of inches to the number of feet and another that suggests a certain type of candy for the user based on preferences, such as chocolate verses non-chocolate and salty verses sweet.

Casteel said the idea came from a guest speaker in the DRF Speaker Series, Vivek Wadhwa, an academic, researcher, writer and entrepreneur, who was working with groups in Las Vegas and the Silicon Valley to develop an app building project and thought it was a worthwhile pursuit for DRF. Wadhwa then consulted with his friend Aneesha Chopra, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, who put him in touch with Paul Nichols at Virginia Advanced Study Strategies. From these original discussions, the idea transformed into the program recently completed by Boys & Girls Club youth with the help of DCC students.

“This was an exciting opportunity to expose them to higher education at an earlier age,? said Heidi Kefauver, education programs coordinator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Danville Area. “Probably 80 percent of our kids are in low-income situations, so a lot of these kids would not be able to visit a college campus.?

Exposing children to the possibilities available to them so they will become productive citizens is part of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Danville Area’s mission, Kefauver said, and the partnership with DCC exposed the children to educational opportunities close to home. In addition, Kefauver said the mentorship that the children received from DCC students has given them the confidence and ability to mentor younger students at the club.

“To have that expertise (from DCC students and instructors) was truly invaluable,? Kefauver said. “It truly was an excellent partnership.?

DCC President Dr. Bruce Scism commended the students during the project completion ceremony held recently at the College.

“I am inspired that such young minds are so creative and so dedicated, so I feel very good about the future of this community. I feel very good about your future in your personal lives,? Scism told the students.


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