Volunteers Honored for Contributions
Written by: Jocelyn Combs and Valerie Freitas
Photo Credits: Jocelyn Combs, Chika Sekimoto, and Munish Matai
In 2013, Jamie Heston, a Bay Area native and Hayward resident, was looking for a way for her two home-schooled sons, Ashton and Kaleb, to learn programming. She tried to teach them herself with discs and books, but she always reached a point when she “couldn’t get to the next step”.
Silicon Valley CoderDojo had been active for two years by then, so when Jamie heard about it she decided to give it a try. She liked what she saw but it didn’t fit well into their busy home-school schedule. Luckily, fellow home-schooler Valerie Freitas and her son Alex had just announced that they were starting a CoderDojo nearby, and it sounded like a good idea to Jamie to join at the beginning since her kids were just starting with programming.
In October 2013, Valerie and Alex launched the once-a-month meetings of the Tri-Valley CoderDoJo at the Dublin Library. There was no formal volunteer system in place except for the technical mentors who are a resource to the kids. All of the kids worked on the beginner programming language Scratch. Very quickly Jamie noticed that Valerie was doing all of the work, so she offered to help and took charge of the sign-in procedure for attendees. “One time a month…sure!”
Since that October 2013 meeting, Tri-Valley CoderDoJo has evolved:
Club meetings increased from one Wednesday a month to every Wednesday.
Membership increased from twenty to over 700 families.
Offerings increased from one program language to multiple languages and technologies.
The registration system evolved from a simple list to a customized CoderDojo database, created by a volunteer in the Silicon Valley group.
This month, we will further expand, as Tri-Valley CoderDoJo announces that we will branch out and begin sessions one Thursday a month at the Livermore Library, beginning May 26th.
Jamie’s one evening a month sign-in duty eventually morphed into faithfully attending every week, giving a ride to other Hayward area home-schoolers to the Dublin area club, managing other volunteers who handle weekly sign-ins and snacks and pizza, hosting new parent orientations at each session, meeting and greeting newcomers and old friends, helping with club planning and behind the scenes administration and generally being Valerie’s right hand person.
Bringing her two sons from Hayward has expanded to bringing family friends Anthony Shtov and Martin Choi as well. Each of them has learned coding and passed that knowledge along :
– 13-year old Ashton, Jamie’s son, mentors Code Combat, and previously mentored Scratch. He prefers Code Combat because it is more complex and fun. He mentors because it is rewarding to help people and is excited that the club is such a success. He’s looking forward to working on his engineering hobby, nerfing dart guns, which he modifies to be more accurate and reliable.
– Kaleb, also Jamie’s son, will turn 12 on May 24th. He started mentoring Code Monkey a few months ago and finds mentoring really satisfying. His favorite memory is a Scratch Jr. presentation he made on an IPad, “I made it and everyone saw it”. He is looking forward to having more time to see his favorite TV series, The X Files .
– Martin Choi who is 12 and also home-schooled, joined his friends at CoderDojo in 2015. He spent a few sessions learning Code Combat and now mentors instead. He enjoys the satisfaction of helping and will miss the food.
– Anthony Shtov from Fremont is 11 and home-schooled. He learned Scratch five years ago after watching his older brother working on the computer. He mentors CodeCombat and likes helping kids who want to be at the club. He enjoys the socialization.
The club honored these special volunteers and bid farewell with cake. Luckily, chocolate was the Hestons’ favorite flavor!
The club honored them for their contributions and youth members wrote messages on the white board presented at the front as a giant farewell card.
But it is time for Jamie to move on. Her sons’ interests have evolved, and the family is going to use their Wednesday nights for other activities. Jamie is very pleased that the club is thriving and that there are many committed parents who are stepping up to fill the volunteering vacancy when she leaves.
We will greatly miss Jamie and her sons and their friends. They have left a huge legacy, and many shoes for us to fill.