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Cultivating Coders wins $300,000 Microsoft grant


Students attend Cultivating Coders’ eight-week web and software development boot camp at the company’s new Downtown office. (Courtesy of Cultivating Coders)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Microsoft YouthSpark awarded a $300,000 grant to New Mexico’s Cultivating Coders program to help finance a summer boot camp for high school students in Albuquerque.

Cultivating Coders, which offers intensive eight-week training workshops for aspiring web and software developers, is launching a series of summer programs this year for youths around the state to teach them coding skills they can  share with their peers in new after-school coding clubs, said founder and president Charles Ashley III.

Microsoft YouthSpark is a global initiative launched three years ago to help more young people learn computer science. YouthSpark managers focus on extending technology and computer skills to underserved communities, a goal Cultivating Coders shares as part of its guiding principles.

The Albuquerque-based company, which began in December 2015, offers mobile boot camps to reach people in rural places and targeted urban areas.

“We’re still a young company, but our goals align with Microsoft,” Ashley said.

YouthSpark grants help close the computer skills gap for underserved youth, said Celeste Alleyne, Microsoft’s U.S. Citizenship and Public Affairs director.

“Microsoft is proud to support the nonprofit Cultivating Coders’ mobile coding boot camp and students who will gain increased access to computer science education tools, training and resources,” Alleyne said in a statement.

The grant will help fund scholarships for the upcoming Albuquerque boot camp, which starts June 12. It will seat 21 students, ages 13 to 18, from the Native American Community Academy, Atrisco Heritage Academy and El Camino Real Academy in the South Valley. It will also pay for software, computer-related tools and operations, Ashley said.

Cultivating Coders will hold more summer camps this year for students in Shiprock and Española, and its first out-of-state program in Clarksdale, Miss. It will also help boot camp graduates form after-school clubs when the new school year begins.

One such club for Navajo students in Shiprock, where Cultivating Coders piloted its summer boot camp program last year, now has more than 60 participants, Ashley said.