Earlier this year, Morehouse College announced that it was partnering with Opportunity Hub and Momentum to offer the Black men’s college its first coding camp through Momentum at Morehouse (Momentum@Morehouse). Initially, Momentum at Morehouse was supposed to be located on the campus at Morehouse College, but when the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started, they had to pivot to a virtual environment.
However, the organizers found that going online presented an opportunity to expand the footprint of the program beyond people in Atlanta who want to acquire programming skills or change careers to software development.
The first camp began in May, supported by experts at the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina-based Momentum; Morehouse College’s Division of Experiential Learning and Interdisciplinary Studies; and Opportunity Hub, which was co-founded in 2013 in Atlanta by Rodney Sampson, chairman and CEO of Opportunity Hub and a nonresident senior fellow with The Brookings Institution.
Speaking on the phone to CCG Media, Erica Parks Murray, a program manager for Momentum at Morehouse, said that she has been busy working to graduate the first cohort and start another certificate course focused on skills training from coding to professional development courses.
“The software engineering immersive course is aimed at getting people jobs, as it scales up others to take hold of their futures in tech,” Parks Murray said.
A 12-week coding boot camp, Momentum at Morehouse is designed for people just starting their careers and career changers. The first cohort has graduates spread across 11 cities in the United States, from Phoenix in Arizona to New York City.
“Because of the relationship that Opportunity Hub has with several HBCUs and industry, and of course the relationships that Morehouse has when we put out those feelers, we had almost 500 applicants between the summer cohort, that just ended, and the fall cohort,” Parks Murray said.
Forty-six percent of the summer cohort have bachelor’s degrees in a major other than computer science, Parks Murray explained. Twenty-one percent had some college-level courses, 17 percent had a master’s degree, 8 percent had associate degrees, and the remainder had a doctorate in education, GEDs, or high school diplomas.
“The graduates who have just graduated with our certificates are ready to have entry-level jobs in software development, software engineering, junior development, tech support, full-stack development, website design, and user experience (UX), testing, and QA,” Parks Murray said. Tech skills are becoming more of a necessity to have, Parks Murray continued. “With this pandemic, many people have been furloughed or let go, so these skills offer flexibility and income. The way we consume education is quickly shifting and altering,” she said.
Momentum at Morehouse provides the structure to learn how to code, web development, back end (website) server languages, and how to learn today’s programming languages like Python and those coming down the pike.
Every Saturday, students learn important soft skills from experts in a workforce series curated by Opportunity Hub. Seminar topics run from design thinking concepts to tips and advice for navigating LinkedIn, working through ‘impostor syndrome’ when you are one of a few at the table, and financial literacy.
Experts in Opportunity Hub’s Culture of Work series include Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug—a Black tech news and insights platform covering Black innovators in tech, venture capital, future of work policy; Timnit Gebru, member of the Black in AI Board who earned a Ph.D. from the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Jordan Walker, chief operating officer and partner with SoFriendly, an entrepreneurial design team; Yak Media, a production services and content creating company, and John McElligott, founder, and CEO of York Exponential, a robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) company.
“African Americans are scarce in tech, the field ranked nationally as having among the highest starting salaries and the most opportunity for future growth. Momentum@Morehouse recognizes this missed opportunity and is dedicated to bringing much-needed diversity to the computing landscape,” said Dr. Kinnis Gosha, division chair and the Hortenius I. Chenault endowed associate professor for experiential learning and interdisciplinary studies. “With our accelerated coding program, students will learn how to write code, design software, and develop the tools necessary to be competitive for jobs in STEM.”
Morehouse College said the boot camp supports the college’s focus on creating pathways to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).