For Low-Income Youth, Learning to Code's About More Than Jobs

Computer programming is the tool that helps our teens learn how to learn, develop discipline, and build confidence.

Coding is a tool for youth leadership development, not just a need for the future. At URBAN Teens eXploring Technology, the nonprofit organization we run in Los Angeles, we're setting the tech world on fire by inspiring teens to become tech entrepreneurs. We see coding as the catalyst that can take young men of color from neighborhoods like South Los Angeles and Watts and turn them into technology leaders who build positive communities. To us, computer programming is the tool that helps our teens learn how to learn, develop discipline, and build confidence.

When we dive into coding, our 7th through 11th-grade young men tend to say it's "too difficult," "intimidating" or "confusing." A select few start off their days in computer programming with, "Woah, that's cool."

No matter what the reaction is, their efforts under our guidance result in web and mobile products that improve communities—and they are built in 10 weeks or less.

"How do you guys do it?" is one of the first questions people ask. The answer is simple. Coding is the tool, leadership development is the end goal. We don't see coding as just selectors, file directories, or languages.

Learning how to learn, as opposed to learning what one is told, is important to us. The young men of color in our program are used to a school environment where teachers tells them to put name, date, and class period on one corner, followed by a checklist of to-do's. Their mentality coming into URBAN TxT is usually, "Tell me what to do, let me check off the boxes, and commend me for my work." Well, that is not how we work.

Our coaches and mentors question and challenge the teens on why a problem is a problem, why their solution is the ideal one, how that solution should translate into a web or mobile product, and why someone would buy or invest in said solution. We also provide our teens with the necessary resources and allow them to learn the things they need to in the way that works best for them. Whether it’s Wordpress, Shortstack, specific computer languages, or design software, we present the tools while allowing our teens to fail and succeed while exploring them.

As we use coding to help our young men of color grow into tech leaders, we emphasize discipline. Early on into our coding academies, teens identify the languages and platforms they will use to develop their products. Since we do not tell them what to do, but instead facilitate the process of learning how to learn, our teens have no option but to put in the hours that it takes to succeed. "PHP, Objective-C, JavaScript, and all other languages will not teach themselves to you," we tell our teens. "It is your job to put in the work and to use your resources as you need to."

To build leaders through coding, confidence must be an integral part of the process. Our teens' confidence spikes as they overcome challenges faced in operating platforms, meshing computer languages, working as a team, and building web products. Through failure, exploration, and ultimately success in solving a problem, our teens develop the confidence they need to lead now and in the future.

We are not just creating a legion of curious, intelligent, young men of color who know how to codeand know it well enough to build mobile and web apps in 10 weeks or less. Our culture is based around creating a positive community and being role models for others, which means our teens also have the attitude of wanting to make this a better world through technology. By creating this culture of leadership through coding, our teens not only become amazing, but they also do amazing things.

Oscar Menjivar is the founder and social entrepreneur, and Juan Vasquez is the communications coach for URBAN Teens eXploring Technology. To learn more about URBAN TxT visit

Photo of Mynor, Kevyn and the rest of their group working on a web app that provides college students different note-taking templates courtesy of Urban TxT.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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