Help Code for Philly help the city's youth - Philly


Help Code for Philly help the city’s youth

A call for you, civic-minded Philly technologists, to learn more about tech-related youth programs and get involved as mentors, teachers and advisors.

Code for Philly community members at last week's meetup, which focused on tech-related education programs.

(Photo by Yuriy Porytko)

This is a guest post by Yuriy Porytko, a consultant, investor and longtime member of the Philadelphia tech community who volunteers with Code for Philly.

Code for Philly took some time out of its regular civic hacking schedule last week to recognize Philadelphia-based organizations that are teaching local youth about technology, software development and coding.

We also put out a call by these groups to encourage volunteers and mentors to participate.

As self-appointed publicist of Code for Philly, I usually take some time during our weekly hacknights to take a few pictures and tweet out to the world what we happen to be working on. If you don’t know about Code for Philly yet, we have the longest running hackathon in Philadelphia, meeting every week supporting the civic hacking begun with Philly’s Code for America brigade.

Last week’s hacknight was our 109th and we met at the City of Philadelphia’s new Innovation Lab on the 16th floor in the Municipal Services Building. Yes, Code for Philly civic hackers, over 700 in our group, meet weekly working on 116 civic hacking projects.

Devnuts cofounder Chris Alfano at the Innovation Lab lectern. (Photo by Yuriy Porytko)

Devnuts cofounder Chris Alfano at the Innovation Lab lectern. (Photo by Yuriy Porytko)

Our home base is the hackerspace Devnuts, but we like to reach out and have our hacknights at other locations around the city. About once a month we invite a topical speaker or have a joint meetup with another PHL tech group.


As I was preparing to live-tweet our program on recognizing the groups that teach our youth in PHL coding and technology, I began taking notes and then tweeted at @TechnicallyPHL with the thought that we should put this story out as a guest post. The next day while at OpenAccessPhilly, responded with a yes to my request and our friends at Generocity thought it would be a good story to share, too.

  • Our first presenter was Megan Threats and she talked to us about DigITalGirls, DigITal Girls uses innovative initiatives to equip women and girls with the education, resources and access they need to thrive in the information and technology industry. Megan put out a call looking for ongoing mentors for DigiTalGirls programs for female youth.
  • Our second presenter was Sylvester Mobley from Coded by Kids. Sylvester talked about how his organization “doesn’t teach kids to code, but we give them a safe environment where they will have fun learning.” He also put out a call for volunteers in the PHL coding community to join his program to teach, participate in mentoring and advising his committed and loyal group of Philadelphia youths. As a change from normal marketing materials, Coded by Kids gave away free whiteboards. The whiteboards, which are made out of heavy-duty clear page protectors with a heavyweight card stock insert, come from the world of resourceful K-12 teachers. They illustrate the idea that you don’t need fancy equipment to fire up kids’ imaginations and creativity — you just need to spark their interest.
  • Our third presenters were Sarah Johnson and Arta Szathmary from TechGirlz, the group dedicated to reducing and hopefully eliminating the gender gap in technology occupations by teaching middle school girls about technology and software. They talked about the popularity, traction and engagement that TechGirlz programs have found, but they also talked about how TechGirlz needs more volunteers as instructors and mentors — and they could also use more venues to conduct their classes.

We wrapped up the content side of our program that evening by having Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski (our evening’s host) talk about how the city works with Code for Philly — and how the city supports the efforts of our technology organizations by getting the word out, through initiatives like PhillyRising, KeySpots and the Innovation Lab.

Tim Wisniewski speaking at the event. (Photo by Yuriy Porytko)

Tim Wisniewski speaking at the event. (Photo by Yuriy Porytko)

But the prevailing theme that everyone talked about was a call for you — Philadelphia’s technology community — to learn more about these programs, get involved and participate as mentors, teachers and advisors. Volunteer to help make our city better through technology by educating our youth! (And when you’re done with that, consider helping these local nonprofits, too.)

We need your help to make these excellent programs even better.

Please feel free to reach out, attend events, participate and volunteer in supporting our city’s youth. If you need help in where to start, send me an email at, tweet me at @yuriy_p or come join us weekly at Code for Philly meetups.

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