In December, without fanfare, Girl Develop It started teaching code to inmates (and a few correctional officers) at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution in New Castle. It was its first step into a new territory that could potentially have tremendous impact on women who are working to reshape their futures.
The three-week pilot course schooled nine inmates and three correctional officers in web basics, HTML and CSS, and included a project where each student built their own website on WordPress, specially adapted for Baylor’s no-internet classroom.
So, how did this program get started, and why did GDI, a national organization, choose Delaware for the pilot?
As it happens, Delaware chose GDI.
Or, more specifically, Capital One chose them, after committing to fund the project at Baylor along with Barclaycard.
“They approached us, and we loved the idea,” said Corinne Warnshuis, the Philly-based executive director of Girl Develop It. “It’s an idea that’s been on our radar for nearly five years. They not only connected dots for us, but they gave us the initial funding we needed to even be able to start thinking about it seriously.”
The Delaware location was also convenient. “With most of GDI’s national team based in Philadelphia, it was really perfect for us to be able to hop in a mini-van with our instructors and TAs we know in the community and head down to pilot this new program,” Warnshuis said.
Leading the charge for Capital One is Community Affairs Manager Jenn Walters-Michalec. “Capital One is pleased to support this program as part of our five-year, $150 million Future Edge initiative to help people succeed in a digital economy,” said Walters-Michalec. “For us, working with Baylor Women’s Prison and Barclaycard is a great opportunity to support an underserved community.”
In the short term, the women gained confidence. With the first pilot classes are only a month old, the longterm impact on the women and the community won’t be known for a while. The goal is not to leave prison straight into a high-paying tech job (it’s by no means a boot camp), but to give women a welcoming and supportive community upon their release, and the confidence to continue learning tech.
“Capital One and Barclaycard both support Zip Code so we’re already talking about tracking and supporting students who re-enter society with connections, scholarships and a continued education path,” said Warnshuis.
GDI’s Wilmington, Philadelphia and Baltimore chapters will also offer scholarships to Baylor students who want to continue taking coding classes.
“Moving forward, we’re really excited for the future of this program and figuring out ways to grow it with the support of the local community in Delaware,” Warnshuis said. “We want the community to get involved in helping us grow the GDI chapter there in many ways — as Teaching Assistants, Instructors, venue hosts for classes. We need all the support we can get to keep building a strong community of empowered women learning technology skills and supporting one another.”
If you’re interested in getting involved or becoming a program sponsor, click here to contact Girl Develop It Delaware.
You can read more about the students and their projects here .We will be following the program’s progress, both as a program and with the longer-term impact on students.-30-