Graduate Spotlight

Stephon Brown knows firsthand that access to education transforms lives. As Assistant Director of the Upward Bound Classic Academy at Kent State University, he helps students in low-resource high schools manage the transition to college.

“I work with 118 students in three different high schools,” Brown said. Through this role, he empowers students to reach their goals. Recently, he committed to achieving a personal goal — learning to code.

“I had really been trying to learn to code on my own,” Brown said. However, he wanted to join a structured program that provided resources to build a broad set of skills. When Kent State partnered with The Software Guild in 2017 to offer coding bootcamps, Brown was thrilled.

“I said there has to be something really special about this program if Kent State University is connecting with [The Software Guild],” Brown said.

The Software Guild’s coding bootcamp is offered online, a flexible learning format that allowed Brown to work full-time as he learned software development. He also took advantage of a scholarship that The Software Guild offers to Kent State graduates, which reduced his tuition by $2,000.

“The scholarship program was another plus for me,” Brown said.

A Supportive and Enriching Learning Experience

Brown excelled during the early stage of his coding bootcamp. “The first portion of the course was most of the basics, so I was able to go through it fairly quickly,” he said. However, he encountered greater challenges when complex concepts were introduced. He also needed time to adapt to The Software Guild’s training. His previous educational experiences focused more on writing papers and research, which differed from the hands-on training he encountered during his coding bootcamp.

To keep pace with his coursework, Brown accessed The Software Guild’s resources that students use to acclimate to the rigors of programming. Resources include a Slack community that brings together the knowledge and support of instructors, students, and graduates through instant messaging.

“Any time I had any questions, they messaged me back,” Brown said. People even offered support outside of typical study hours. “If there was a burning question that I had, they were willing to try to work through it with me.”

The program’s flexible online format helped Brown strike a balance between his studies, job, and personal life. For instance, he practices taekwondo with his son three days a week and kept that commitment while he completed his coding training. Although this led to a demanding schedule, Brown persevered.

“It was an awesome experience overall,” Brown said.

Expanding Horizons

Brown’s coding bootcamp provided skills to expand his role at the Upward Bound Classic Academy. In addition to serving as Assistant Director, he is now the school’s STEM Grant Coordinator.

“I was also able to write an $80,000 grant for our Upward Bound program that incorporates software development basics for high school students,” Brown said. In this role, he is introducing students to web programming via an open-source JavaScript platform.

Brown said The Software Guild’s coding bootcamps prepare people for careers in software development and beyond. “The program is so much more than just a certificate,” he said. “It places you in a different position.”

That’s why Brown is confident that people who are interested in technology can trust The Software Guild to help them to make a career change or enhance their current position. “If you want to be better, build better—then please make sure that you are part of it,” he said.