Breaking The Code – A Student Making a Difference
Taking a break from the virtues of test prep, please consider this unusual student success story (then back to test prep!).
So how does a California 19-year-old student with no degree, no job and limited programming experience end up teaching coding to Syrian refugees in Jordan?
Gisela Kottmeier started her coding career as Lowell High School student in San Francisco by failing her first coding class. Failing was a minor setback. She recalls, “Although I did not pass, I fell in love with coding.” To get into the game, she applied to the ‘Girls Who Code’ summer program. With so few girls showing interest, she was confident she would land this opportunity. Unfortunately, due to her grades she was not accepted.
Displaying an immunity to these setbacks, Gisela enrolled in Mission Bit, a citywide afterschool program for public school students. No grade prerequisites, just an interest in coding required. Taught by SF bay area engineers Mission Bit students learn about computer science, get challenged to solve problems and rub elbows with pros working in and around Silicon Valley.
Tyson Daugherty, the founder of Mission Bit, is an alum of Hack Reactor. In the tech community, Hack Reactor is known as one of the top coding schools in the country. They deliver an immersive learning experience that is consistently producing hundreds of employable coders every year.
As fortune would have it Mission Bit offered Gisela an internship with Hack Reactor. During this experience Gisela emerged as a student with an aptitude for coding. The internship led to her promotion to technical assistant at subsequent summer workshops during her high school senior year.
Hack Reactor offers an intensive three month Bootcamp program many adults take to enhance or launch their tech career. Here is how Hack Reactor describes their candidates:
“Some hold a Computer Science degree and want to get web dev specific training before applying to jobs, some come from adjacent fields such as design or IT and have tangentially worked with coding, and many come from unrelated fields, looking to gain a complete skill set and begin a career in engineering.”
No CS degree, no work experience. No problem. Gisela was confident she would succeed at their boot camp. There was one major obstacle. The $18,000 tuition. Now, many 18 year olds who cannot turn to parents for funding, may have been discouraged. Gisela turned to the Internet to launch a “Go-Fund Me” campaign. Thirteen months later with the help of friends, family and fans she had raised the funds needed.
So what do Hack Reactor Bootcamp graduates do? As reported on their website, over 89% get jobs in the tech sector. Hack Reactor had other plans for one of their youngest graduates. In January of 2016 Gisela was drafted to assist in the launch of Reboot Kamp, the first coding boot camp to be delivered in the Arab world.
Gisela took her first international flight to Amman, Jordan where for four months she tutored Jordanians students as well as Syrian, Iraqi and Yemen refugees who were in desperate need of a new job and a new country to raise their families.
“At first, the new students divided up by country”, Gisela commented. “They did not trust each other. The girls were more receptive to my coaching. But as we progressed, students crossed country lines and began solving problems together. And, as I demonstrated my coding ability, the guys began to pursue me as a resource.”
The first Reboot Kamp class graduated in Spring of 2016. Months later students, instructors and tutors are all still in contact via social media. “As the very first Reboot Kamp”, says Gisela, “we seemed to have created a special bond”.
With a passion for learning this young lady continues to hone her skills. She is currently building her portfolio in preparation for her first job.
No boundaries, no glass ceiling holding her back. Just problems to solve.