Giving back to the community is a cornerstone of Judaism and a Donna Klein Jewish Academy education. DKJA has instilled in me the importance of giving back not only to fulfill community service requirements, but for the sake of Tikkun Olam—repairing the world. For me, community service has been about spreading my passion for computer programming and making things.
Since 8th grade, I have taught computer programming workshops to underprivileged elementary schoolers who would otherwise not be introduced to computer programming until much later on in their lives. This is because, unlike DKJA, most public elementary schools don’t offer introductory level computer programming instruction for their students. I started teaching students at the Youth Activity Center how to build their own video games with code, and they had so much fun, they didn’t even realize they were learning. As a 9th grader, after Sharon Kamber and Mrs. Wahlheim suggested I apply for the Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank, a Shark Tank for community service projects, I was awarded $15,000 to expand my workshops, and “canCode” was born.
Since then, I have empowered other high school students to become teachers, and I am the leader of a 12-student team of students who not only teach the canCode workshops, but also run our social media, build our website, write our curricula, and have turned canCode into a 501c3. By the way, follow us at @canCodeus on Facebook and Instagram. Through multiple workshops after school, winter and summer camps, and now online workshops, canCode has expanded to teach hundreds of students. Inspired by the fast transition from in-school learning to online learning that DKJA implemented, canCode piloted online workshops during the months of April and May for the Youth Activity Center. Leading up to June, my team and I reached out to more summer camps, low-income communities, and other underserved youth centers to start canCode workshops, and we are now teaching 10 workshops a week! Now, for the first time ever, canCode workshops are open to the public, and you can join for free! canCode has partnered with the public library system to give 2nd through 6th graders the opportunity to learn computer programming through the building of video games and fun projects every week. Visit www.canCode.us/online/library to learn more.
Just this last month, I was honored with the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, a $36,000 award given to fifteen 15 Jewish U.S. teens for exceptional leadership and engagement in initiatives making the world a better place. You can read about it at www.dillerteenawards.org/project/cancode/. I appreciate that DKJA encouraged and supported my dedication to volunteerism. I challenge everyone to take a passion or hobby and share it with the community through meaningful volunteer work. Whatever your talent is, there is always a way to make a positive impact with it. You can start at the Youth Activity Center right around the corner from school, or even do something with the many organizations based right on our campus. If your passion does happen to be computer programming, and you are a rising 8th, 9th, or 10th grader, I’d love to train you to become a canCode teacher!