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Why these high-school coders took a field trip to Genius

Members of the Genius tech team did their part Wednesday to inspire a group of students from Brooklyn's George Westinghouse High.

Students from George Westinghouse High School pose with members of the Genius product team. (Photo by Rashmi Chugani)
When Genius developers, ScriptEd volunteers and the most cheerful high school teacher you’ve ever met come together, the result can be pretty inspiring.

Ten students from Brooklyn’s George Westinghouse High School got to experience a morning in one of the boroughs best-known startups as part of ScriptEd’s mission to create access to careers in technology.
The high school juniors had a little over an hour to explore the new Genius HQ in Gowanus. They heard about the ins-and-outs of working in a startup environment and even scored some swag — Genius T-shirts doled out by Engineering Lead Mat Brown.
The main part of the guided visit was a panel with Brown and three other key members of the Genius team: Andrew Warner, head of engineering; Jenn Scheer, lead designer; and Lisa Wray, Android developer.
Together, the team answered any questions the students had, which focused on the different paths that led to a career in the tech sector.

Genius developers, left to right: Mat Brown, Andrew Warner, Lisa Wray and Jenn Scheer.

Genius developers, left to right: Mat Brown, Andrew Warner, Lisa Wray and Jenn Scheer. (Photo by Rashmi Chugani)


“My favorite part was hearing how some of them failed at first, but then had to get back up and do it again,” said Ariane Biggers, who along with her peers, is in the middle of learning JavaScript as part of the ScriptEd curriculum.
ScriptEd, a Manhattan nonprofit, wants low-income students to envision themselves taking on careers in the internet economy. Volunteers like Brown and arvato Systems developer Jesse Wang use their own programming skills to teach a class of George Westinghouse High students how to conquer the at-times scary realm of front-end coding.
“Many under-resourced schools don’t have a lot of technical education or training, especially in the computer field,” said Wang. With ScriptEd, they’re there to fix that. “This is their only opportunity to learn this,” he said.
To give these students an extra dose of encouragement, there’s Jeffrey Stephens-Prince — that friendly high school teacher in charge of the group. Mr. Prince, as everyone calls him, is quick to define any concept that may seem foreign to the students.
A designer and a teacher, Stephens-Prince talks about his time working at tech giants like Apple and IBM. Like his student Ariane, he spoke about how profoundly failure can shape every path — a persistent topic during the Genius panel.
“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up,” he said to his students.
Students from George Westinghouse High School tour Genius HQ.

Students from George Westinghouse High School tour Genius HQ. (Photo by Rashmi Chugani)


Wray, the Genius Android developer, also spoke about her own journey to get to a happy place in her career. Though she dropped out of MIT once, she eventually completed her degree and became a self-taught mobile developer. After working at Google, where she “didn’t get to actually make anything,” she joined the Genius team.
“When I took a job at Genius, I realized I’m going to learn here,” she said.
The developers’ stories struck a chord with some of the visiting students. Andrea Young, a basketball player on the George Westinghouse team, said the visit was uplifting.
“Besides how the place looks, I like the energy everybody has,” she said. “It kind of makes me feel more comfortable about learning to code.”

Companies: Genius / ScriptEd
Series: Brooklyn

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