“Initially, the idea was to just run it in the summer time,” Chris says now. CodeVA started up in 2013 with the plan to run coding summer camps for children through Hanover Parks and Recreation. The tuition fees would then underwrite Rebecca’s work training teachers to teach AP computer science. It was a modest goal.
But then they unexpectedly received a large donation to fund CodeVA’s programs (more on that next). Within a year, by working directly with Richmond public school teachers, all public general education schools in the city had real computer science classes, taught by CodeVA-trained teachers.
Still, less than 2% of Virginia students statewide had access to and took a CS class. In particular, they found that rural and urban areas were the most under-resourced.
CodeVA’s teacher training was extensive, and it became clear to Chris and Rebecca that there were systemic barriers that could wind up causing all that training to go to waste. To ensure it would be put to use in the classroom, CodeVA was going to have to broaden its vision and have the courage to step up and take on a larger advocacy role as well.
Chris’s experience as a journalist gave him the perspective necessary to engage the public sector. While Rebecca continued to run the program side, Chris began reaching out to policy makers, the general assembly, and the governor’s office. On the phone, in meetings, at hearings and events, Chris worked to get them to understand not just why computer science needed to be taught, but what CS even was.
His persistence began to pay off. Proposed legislation that was well-intentioned but misguided was set aside. New legislation that would provide more effective solutions began to take shape.
But CodeVA was running out of money. ►