CODeLLA was first conceived three years ago when a group of eight women, led by Josie Goytisolo, spent the summer dreaming up a coding and entrepreneurship curriculum for school children.
After two years of one-day “hackathons” and once-a-week coding clubs, they attained their vision for an immersion program. This summer, twenty Latina girls aged 9-12 spent six hours a day in class for eight weeks. At the start, many of these girls didn’t know how to edit and save a word document. All came from families below the federal poverty limit and only 50% have access to Internet at home. By the end of CODeLLA’s transformative program, they had designed their own apps.
There is no other program like this–especially not solely for Latina girls. “I feel it’s very important to provide our community–my community in particular–with the skills they need to succeed,” Goytisolo explained. “Girls-only really does allow them to focus. They delve more deeply into the subject matter instead of focusing on boys or other things.”
Their focus is readily apparent when listening to Latina innovators who come as guest speakers. CODeLLA aims to provide role models as well as education. One particular session was with five women who work in green corridor space. The girls were so captivated by the talk about investor decks that they stayed completely silent during the entire two hours, only breaking the quiet for a pointed question session.
The girls spent their time tinkering with hardware, making websites, experimenting with wearable technology, and much more. But wearable technology was their favorite. What else would you expect from a delightful girls-only group? They were also equipped with entrepreneurial skills such as public speaking, collaboration, presenting to a camera, and even elements of storytelling.
It all culminated at a graduation ceremony where they presented their final projects. One girl, mourning the loss of a loved one from an obesity-related disease, designed an app to advise people on healthy meal options. Another who watched her friend miss school because of the severe migraines she suffered made an app that helped users find solutions to their migraines. Fostered by their community, CODeLLA’s girls instinctively look for ways they, too, can help others.
Ultimately, CODeLLA plans to create a curriculum to be shared throughout the nation. “9 out of 10 schools don’t provide [this kind of education],” said Goytisolo. “I want to be part of the solution.”