Around 400 students from low-income families around Miami-Dade County spent six weeks of their summer learning to code – and getting paid for it.
The TechHire initiative was started by President Barack Obama in 2015. CareerSource South Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the TechLaunch program at Florida Vocational Institute (FVI) partnered to bring TechHire to Miami. Out of around 900 applications, approximately 400 students were chosen by a combination of a lottery system and qualifications.
“We see cities that may have a summer tech boot camp, maybe one or two boot camps," said Arnie Girnun, the chief success officer with FVI. "But this is the first time we’ve seen scale, where we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of students being exposed to tech over the course of a multi-week boot camp.”
Participants get paid $300, then another $200 if they pass the certification test at the end.
“The certification was my main goal. The money was ... mmm, good extra,” said Paula Zalazar, 16.
The students are separated into smaller groups in different locations, and she is the only girl at hers.
“Slowly there have been more guys. It started seven guys, I counted the first day. And now it’s nine. I was like – when did they get here?”
Girnun said girls compose 30 percent of participants overall.
Zalazar said she knew she was interested in coding before TechHire, but other students started out more skeptical.
“So I heard about it – I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to partake in that type of stuff,” said 17-year-old James Paulin. He said he wants to be a fashion designer, but his Mom pushed him into the program.
After six weeks, though, he’s become convinced that this coding thing might not have been such a bad idea.
“This’ll really take someone to the next level,” he said, “maybe make you a millionaire or billionaire.”
Girnun said he hopes to continue the boot camp next summer.
This story has been corrected for a spelling error. We had originally spelled Arnie Girnun's last name as Gurnin. We regret the error.