I remember when I was in high school. A friend of mine and I stayed after school and built a rudimentary football game on a TRS80 using Basic. It was the first actual coding I had ever done. I didn't get into more serious stuff until college.
I honestly can't remember if we had a teacher supervising us or not. I don't even remember the name of my friend who I did this with. The whole thing is fuzzy. It was almost 35 years ago.
But those fuzzy memories came back into focus for a second yesterday when I saw that our portfolio company Codecademy launched After School Programming Clubs. Like its Code Year initiative, After School Programming Clubs is a packaging innovation more than anything else. It takes the core Codecademy software learning tools and packages them up so that students and teachers can organize after school programming clubs.
If you have students or teachers in your life that would want to create an After School Programming Club, send them here to get started.
The Academy For Software Engineering (AFSE) is opening in a few weeks. Roughly 125 high school freshmen will be starting a four year program that is designed to prepare them for secondary education if they want that and also for a career in software engineering and web development.
The inspiration for AFSE was the computer science program that Mike Zamansky has built at Stuyvesant High School in NYC over the past 15 years. When I first went to visit Mike at Stuy a few years ago, I walked into his office through a room where a bunch of his students were hanging out after school. These high school students could have headed home after school, or they could have hit the streets. But instead they were hanging out writing code, listening to music, playing video games, and in general geeking out together. I thought "this is where the magic happens."
In the six weeks since that post, a lot has happened and I want to give everyone an update.
First, and most importantly, we have a leader for the school. His name is Seung Yu. His first name is pronounced like sing. He's been in several new high schools working directly for the Principal waiting for his opportunity to lead a new school and now he has found it. I've been working very closely with Seung for the past four weeks and I'm really impressed with his passion and commitment and considerable talents.
We are now recruiting the first class of 9th graders. Today and tomorrow are big days as we will be at the citywide High School Fair at Martin Luther King Jr High School on the Upper West Side. The fair is on from 10am to 2pm both days this weekend and Seung and I will be there along with many of the folks on the school's advisory board. Next week on Tuesday night there is an open house for parents and students at Google's office and next weekend there is an open house for parents and students at NYU. And there is one more open house the following week at NYU. If you know any students who are going into ninth grade and are a fit for this school, please tell them and their parents to come to the High School Fair and the Open Houses. That's the best way for them to get into this school.
We also have a full blown web presence now. We have a website, a twitter, and a facebook page. I'd like to thank Sean Gallagher for his tireless and excellent work on all of our physical and virtual brand presence. Sean is creative, technical, and hilarious. His sense of humor and vision will be plastered on this school for many years to come.
I'd also like to thank AVC community member Larry Erlich who left a comment on that first post six weeks ago that he was gifting the school a handful of web domains. That was the gift that kept giving and giving. With Larry's help, we assembled a bunch of domains, decided to use afsenyc.org, and lit that one up. Larry has also helped with a bunch of stuff around getting our web presence live. He's an example of what makes this community so great and why it is such a force.
There are literally dozens of people in the NYC tech community who have given massive amounts of their time for this school. The advisory board has people on it from many of the big and small tech companies in NYC. It is led by Evan Korth of NYU who has become a full partner in this effort. Evan's research interest is K-12 computer science education and he's getting a real-time live immersion in that right now.
Finally, I need to call out the NYC DOE. It's easy to dismiss government as big, slow, dumb, bureaucratic, and ineffective. I know I've been guilty of that myself. But I have to tell you that the DOE has impressed me again and again in this effort. The folks we work with are smart, committed, decisive, and most surprisingly, they are risk takers. There are too many of them to mention here, but they know who they are and I am extremely grateful for their efforts to get this school off the ground.
I'll end with a video that the folks at Makerbot (also on the advisory board) put together to explain this school and what its all about to the parents and students who are considering it. Please pass this on to any 8th graders you know in the NYC school system that you think might like to go to a high school and learn how to make software.
A number of years ago, I wrote a blog post talking about the need to teach middle school and high school students how to write software. In the comments (where the good stuff happens), a Google engineer told me to go down to Stuyvesant High School and meet a teacher named Mike Zamansky who had taught him to write code in high school. So I did that and thus begun my education into the world of computer science education in the NYC public high school system. What I learned was that other than Mike's program at Stuyvesant and a few other small programs, there wasn't much. So began my quest to see more computer science and software engineering in the NYC public school system.
I want to personally thank the Mayor, his education team led by Dennis Walcott, and his economic development team led by Robert Steel for adopting an integrated set of technology, economic development, and education policies and then aggressively rolling them out city wide. The Academy For Software Engineering is just one part of a much bigger strategy of developing new industries and new jobs in New York City and making sure we have the education resources, both in K-12 and at the college/university level, to properly staff these new industries.
The Academy Of Software Engineering is not a "specialized school." It will be open to all students as part of the high school admissions process in NYC. The City's goal (and mine too) is to open up opportunities for many more students than the small number of specialized schools can deliver. Hopefully the curriculum that is developed and teachers that are trained at the Academy will get rolled out into high schools all over the city in the coming years.
The Gotham Gal and I have provided the initial financial support to hire a new schools team and recruit a top notch Principal. But we do not want to be front and center in this story. The team at the DOE and City Hall that has brought this school to life and the Advisory Board of educators and industry leaders (led by Evan Korth of NYU) should get way more credit for what has happened to date. And we will need more financial and industry support (as well as a fantastic Principal) to make this school a success. So if you would like to join us in this effort, please email me via the contact link at the bottom of this blog and let me know how you would like to help. This is an ambitious effort and we will need it.