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Tech Education Program Grows Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

Written by Felicia Ingram, Communications Intern at theCO

High school: not the typical time to work two part-time jobs or start up a business—but certainly the time to think about the future. West Tennessee Dev Catalyst students Peyton Anderson and Bradley Holloway have set sail to accomplish such feats and even more.

Jackson Entrepreneur Center, theCO, launched
Dev Catalyst to improve tech education and grow tech talent in West Tennessee. Middle and high school students learn coding languages necessary to build a website, create a web application, learn maker tech and cultivate marketable career skills. By the end of year one, students learn programming languages such as HTML, CSS, PHP and JavaScript.

At the nudge of their teacher, Kimberly Moore, Peyton and Bradley decided to take her coding class at Chester County High School.

“Bradley and Peyton just happen to be best of friends, and so that natural adventuresome and entrepreneurial spirit of both young men flourished in a classroom environment where they were allowed to progress at their own pace,” Moore explained.

At first, “I couldn’t really get into HTML,” Bradley explained. After digging deeper into the semester Bradley’s perspective changed as he presented an idea to Peyton, his Dev Catalyst partner: creating a website around their blacksmithing hobby. As the site came together, the two became more involved.

As part of the Novice Web Development contest, the team was able to learn essential elements of HTML and CSS all while also considering the business aspects of the site. Additionally, Moore appreciates how the program helps her students become more well-rounded.

“We have had many visitors including Tennessee’s
Commissioner of Education, local business professionals, and various other educators who have come to view our program,” she explained. “Every visit was an opportunity to build upon a very essential skill: communication. I have watched both young men speak to dignitaries and policy makers with the expertise of grown men.”

Education Outreach Coordinator at theCO, Molly Plyler, agrees wholeheartedly.

“We’ve seen students who are passionate about entrepreneurship use their newfound dev skills to promote their own business,” Plyler said. “[Peyton and Bradley] use blacksmithing techniques to create products in Bradley’s backyard. By taking a coding class their sophomore year of high school, these students were introduced to concepts such as UX (user experience), personas of their customers, and website promotion.”

This was also true for Dev Catalyst alumnus Steven Prescott, now a sophomore at Austin Peay State University who has excelled in his classes and has started his own tech business. Prescott credits the organization for helping to nurture relationships that contribute to his life as a tech entrepreneur. The program prepared him to tackle his computer science degree.

“I took some type of web development class [at Austin Peay], and I remember thinking, ‘This is nothing. I’ve done this before!’” Prescott explained.

When asked about the future work that he would be interested in accomplishing, Prescott explained that he wanted to impact the world socially, citing Ben Harris of POPVOX and change.org as inspirations.

Dev Catalyst started in 2013 with the goal of equipping high school students to take on the thousands of tech and web development jobs that would be left unfilled. The program’s reach has extended from West Tennessee to regions of the country such as Vermont and New Mexico. Cofounder of theCO, William Donnell, has high hopes for the program’s graduates.

“Dev Catalyst students are given the tools and fundamentals needed to work as developers—work in any industry or even brainstorm a totally new idea and begin a startup.”

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