Powerful Code for Good

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

Months ago in mid-June, three Irish students were only a handful of days on American soil but plans were already forming to help make a change in the South Bend community. Yerlan Turekeshov, Mark Roche and Stephen Ennis all have a background in computer science. More importantly the three ESTEEM students were eager to give back and help future generations enter their field.


They started seeking a means of opening a Coder Dojo with the help of the ESTEEM program and Innovation Park. Coder Dojo is a worldwide educational program which focuses on the education of young people in areas of computer science. Both Mark and Yerlan had experience volunteering for Coder Dojos in Ireland. The students plans changed however, when they met with Chris Frederick and Alex Sejdinaj of the South Bend Code School (SBCS) (http://southbendcodeschool.com/) late July.

Chris and Alex started the SBCS in June and were eager to expand. When Yerlan, Mark and Stephen met with the Alex and Chris, they were just finishing up a highly successful course at Notre Dame's Robinson Community Learning Center that taught web development to high school students. Immediately the ESTEEM students saw the overlap between their goals and those of Alex and Chris. Without missing a beat, the ESTEEM students became the newest SBCS volunteers.

The next mission for Alex, Chris and the SBCS was to take place at the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph. This time around, the theme was building community. The theme honoured the principles of a leader in the community who had recently passed. The course took on a feverous pace from week one. I was instantly struck by the speed at which the students absorbed principles of web development. The students learned the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, the languages that form the cornerstone for web development. The program culminated in presentation to local media and a visit to Google’s Chicago HQ.

The students successfully formed two websites: Bend Bash (http://bb.southbendcodeschool.com/) and AnyVid (http://av.southbendcodeschool.com/). Bend Bash aims at promoting small scale community events and AnyVid offers a platform for youth to share categorised videos.

It goes without saying that with no more than 14 sessions what the students achieved was remarkable. Although simple in formulation, the websites stand as clear examples that a meaningful venture needs only vision and dedication to come to life. It was an honour to work with the South Bend Code School. I learned more from the students in one hour than from any academic lecture. In a few short weeks six students received an edge on their peers, the SBCS grew its influence and on a personal level I saw how much a person can receive when they decide to give.