Languages like Python, Java and C++ are the backbone of the internet economy, but they’re generally not part of most schools’ curriculum. While educators and lawmakers in California debate whether programming belongs in the classroom, a handful of start-ups and investors in Oakland want to help local teenagers to code.

“I wanted to change my life instead of being in a ghetto every day, growing up around people smoking and doing drugs,” says high school sophomore Johnnel White, who takes coding classes at the nonprofit Hidden Genius Project.

A few weeks ago, White had a chance to test his growing knowledge during a hackathon for “Black Achievement.” Teams of teenagers and adult mentors spent the weekend at a local incubator in Oakland, hacking away at apps to deal with their own everyday problems — from what to eat to whether to show up to school.

Video by Jeremy Raff

Author

Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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