Loop Coding Center, a local startup, is filing the diversity gap in the technology workforce by teaching Latino and other minorities computer coding skills, for them to enter the market in the near future.

When Luis Perez took a coding class in college, he was the only Latino along with only one female, this and his lack of experience compared to his classmates made him feel out of place. He realized there needs to be more diversity in tech-related careers. This feeling was what inspired him and two of his high school friends, José Meza and Angel Barreto, to create a company centered around teaching computer programming—also known as coding—to minorities, especially Latinos and African-American students.

In 2017, they started the Grand Rapids-based Loop Coding Center (LCC). For the three college students, the business idea was a way to close the diversity gap in the technology sector by working with gender-diverse or ethnic-diverse students.

“After writing our business plan and doing our research, we found there is a big diversity gap in tech around West Michigan, where 74% are male employees and only 26% female. If we talk about race, then we see that 86% are Caucasian employees and only 14% belong to a minority,” said Luis Perez, who added that “Knowing this information was very shocking for us, and even worse was the fact that there were no organizations trying to solve this problem.”

Now, Loop Coding Center focuses on teaching coding to kids and teenagers in middle and high school. LCC hosts a nine-week coding class called Coding 101 and a free workshop, in which students learn how to pursue a career in a programming or tech field. “Our coding classes are designed for young people who are 12 to 18 years old; the workshops, on the other hand, are available for all ages,” said Perez.

They provide workshops all around Grand Rapids, which are developed as an introductory class free for everyone. There, students learn how to write their first line of code and get an overview of how the nine-week class works. The Coding 101 class is $500 per student, and there are payment plans and scholarships available.

While working out of offices at the Grand Rapids incubator Start Garden, LCC targets students in schools without computer science classes and receives funding from the schools where the class is held. For instance, the Grand Rapids Public School District is sponsoring their coding class.  Additionally, they are building partnerships with non-profit organizations that have youth programs.

“Our classes are held in Start Garden, and we take students to offices and work areas where they experience how professionals in the tech field work, getting to know from a close perspective a path they could walk professionally,” explained Perez.  To date, 121 students have attended their coding classes and workshops, and 93 of them are minorities.

“Our courses not only focus on learning codes but also on teaching students a set of soft skills that are extremely important outside school like leadership, interpersonal communication, teamwork, and time management,” he concluded.

Haz clic para leer en Español: Una startup de Grand Rapids enseña a los estudiantes codificación informática

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Vive Michigan Bilingual Magazine is a free monthly publication that reaches Kent County’s residents in West Michigan,  dedicated to family themes in a variety of topics. Every month and during the year, we publish stories that promote local education, wellness, sports, healthy eating, finances, home ownership,  fitness, local events and more.

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