This program helped 40 teens get paid to build websites this summer - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Aug. 12, 2015 11:28 am

This program helped 40 teens get paid to build websites this summer

Digital Harbor Foundation's WebSlam branched out to West Baltimore, and teamed up with the city's YouthWorks program.

Lloyd Meeks (left) and Diamond Hill present TheMixxFest website.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Thanks to Andrew Britt, Dunn Rite Mobile Cafe now has a web presence.

The West Baltimore restaurant didn’t have a website before the Dunbar High School student got in touch with the owner. Now, the eatery has a full menu and specials online, along with pictures. It even has a presence on Google.

“When the owner actually came in here, his eyes lit up,” Britt told a crowd of his fellow students and community leaders on Tuesday, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The website wasn’t just designed to help the small, local business. It was also designed to help Britt.

For the last couple of weeks, Britt has been one of about 40 students taking part in Digital Harbor Foundation’s WebSlam. The tech education nonprofit gives instructors without web development experience a four-day intensive in how to teach WordPress, HTML and CSS. Then, the instructors turn around and teach the kids those skills. Once the students get the basics, they create websites for local nonprofits and small businesses.

After running hackathon-style WebSlams at their Federal Hill Tech Center in the past and branching out to Philly and Ohio, this summer marks the first time Digital Harbor Foundation has branched out to other sites in the community around Baltimore.

Britt saw work at the Center for Urban Families on North Monroe Street near Mondawmin Mall in West Baltimore. There were other sites in that area of the city at the Liberty Rec Center, the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center and Digital Harbor High School in Federal Hill (which isn’t related to the Digital Harbor Foundation).

On top of giving the kids some experience, the 40 students who participated in the program were all paid for their work as part of the city’s YouthWorks program. City officials, including Rawlings-Blake, pushed for the program to employ as many kids as possible in the wake of the rioting that following Freddie Gray’s funeral, and the program ended up giving 8,000 teens summer jobs in the city.

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Since the students were tasked with finding their own clients, the entrepreneurial leanings of the program were also clear.

Diamond Hill and Lloyd Meeks teamed up to work on a project for TheMixxFest, a music festival at Northwood Baseball Field that is one of the city’s big back-to-school gatherings for college kids.

Hill, a student at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, said the program taught her how to present her skills in a way that could help others. Even though she came in without web design experience, she already recognized a need for the duo to get some business cards by the end.

Meeks, who graduated Our Lady of Mt. Carmel High School and will attend Thiele College in the fall, already had the sales pitch.

“We look at it as being digital arts,” he said at the end of their presentation. “If you can give us an image of what you want to do, we put it in play.”

Having seen a sample of the work, the mayor was impressed.

“Baltimore is known for our creativity and our music,” Rawlings-Blake told the students. “If we are able to develop a cadre of students who are able to put that music and put that brand on websites, then that could be the start of something that could be amazing.”

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