Operation Spark lights up students for computer coding

There is a deep digital divide in the nation, but not for the St. Charles Parish School district students chosen for Operation Spark.

“When the opportunity arose this summer to offer this high-demand, high-skill, high-wage course to our students, we couldn’t pass it up,” said Matthew Spitz, the school system’s curriculum specialist.

Describing it as an up-and-coming field, Spitz said students expressed interest in learning computer coding.

It’s an emerging field with job projections showing  it is fast becoming a high-demand one.

Selected students who have participated in robotics or taken courses in areas like digital media were invited to an Aug. 15 organizational meeting to set up the course.

Some 35 students vied for 24 slots in the class, which Spitz said were named this week.

“Everything they learn will enhance their educational experience if they decide to continue to take digital media or graphic design courses at the Satellite Center or enrich their courses overall,” he said.

Some of these students are on the industry readiness path, equivalent to entering the workforce after graduation, and others are college bound in TOPS, Spitz said. The course will aid them on either educational path.

The school district is working with Operation Spark, a nonprofit organization in New Orleans, to offer the introductory course in Javascript, HTML and CSS coding.Spitz said it’s a project-based program where students will build a website, simple games and computer-generated animation.

Students who complete the course earn a half credit toward graduation.

The class will be taught at 4  to 8 p.m. every Tuesday from Aug. 29 to December.

Spitz said Operation Spark charges a fee for the coursework, which is covered by state funding. It is being offered as the “High School to High Wage” program.

Operation Spark started in September 2013 as a pilot project, developed and conducted at youth community centers around New Orleans, teaching young adults how to build simple mobile video games and apps with the aim of igniting the pursuit of an employable passion. In July of 2014, in partnership with 4.0 Schools and Positive Space, Operation Spark ran its first Summer Bootcamp.

By 2014, the program launched as a nonprofit with the goal of providing access to literacy in software creation to all Louisiana students.

John Fraboni is Operation Spark’s founder and CEO.The course is a first for St. Charles Parish Public Schools, made possible this year when Operation Spark started providing satellite locations. Offering a more advanced course is possible if the introductory one goes well.

“Right now, we’re offering just this one course this semester,” Spitz said. “But we’re looking forward to a long relationship with them.”

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