Twenty minutes before class began on a Tuesday evening, the LaunchCode Mentor Center’s main instructional room was quietly filling up with early arrivals to the CS50x class, a 16-week, in-person version of the introduction to computer science class offered online by Harvard. The only things breaking the silence were the sounds of an arcade basketball game in the building’s entryway: swoosh, thump. Swoosh, thump.
Student Jarrod Sharp had arrived from his full-time job as a medical biller at a hospital in Belleville, Illinois and was preparing to be on his game for the 5:30 p.m. class. He’d seen on social media that fellow East St. Louisan LaShana Lewis—who completed a LaunchCode program, eventually became a system engineer at MasterCard and then met President Barack Obama—and thought to himself, “Well, now you’ve got my attention.”
Created by Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square, in 2013, Launchcode exists to address both the issue of overwhelming unemployment and a giant tech talent gap. Through partnerships with hundreds of companies, LaunchCode has helped set up on-ramp apprenticeships that look more at your aptitude and professionalism and less at your credentials and college degree. 90 percent of LaunchCoders have no previous programming experience, yet 90 percent of LaunchCoders are offered a fulltime job at their company post-internship.
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