YEP Founder Cole Hersowitz works with a student in coding class at Newport Coast Elementary School.
Corona del Mar High School

Cracking codes: The YEP for kids foundation

YEP Founder Cole Hersowitz works with a student in coding class at Newport Coast Elementary School.
YEP Founder Cole Hersowitz works with a student in coding class at Newport Coast Elementary School.

The education of today should equip students with the skills to make a difference in tomorrow’s world. As technology continues to change the way we live, work, and interact, nobody can guarantee what the future will look like. But according to Corona del Mar High School sophomore Cole Hersowitz, it will probably have something to do with coding.

“Code is like the new literacy,” he explained. “It’s the new greeting.”

And yet, too few of the students who will be vying for jobs in the tech industry are learning the skills they need. According to code.org, only 1 in 4 schools teach computer programming.

Hersowitz wants to change that.

Hersowitz’s interest in coding began at the end of his fifth-grade year in elementary school. But he was frustrated when he couldn’t find any online coding programs that explained coding in simple terms.

“I was mainly just flipping through books trying to learn on my own,” he remembered. “It was a really frustrating process.”

As he overcame various obstacles, he ventured into more advanced software programs. He studied JavaScript coding during a summer program at Stanford University, and from that point forward, his passion for coding took off.

Hersowitz developed mobile apps and games using different code languages. His iOS game Pelican Plunge was launched into the app store, and reached 25 countries overnight. In 2014, Hersowitz released a YEP Promos app, which sends users discount notifications as they pass by registered stores.

Now, Hersowitz has embarked on an entirely different project that involves much more than phone apps. In mid-2014, he launched the YEP for Kids Foundation. With its three pillars Youth, Entrepreneurship, and Programming (YEP), the organization aims to provide young kids with the kind of coding instruction Hersowitz never had.

“Computer science powers everything around us,” he said. And yet, “There is a huge gap between people who write the code and the general populous.”

With the help of some friends, Hersowitz hopes to bridge that gap.

As cofounder, CdM senior Albert Szabo focuses on project management. Not surprisingly, Hersowitz occupies the tech-savvy role. Other key players include sophomores John Michael Jurgenson, Nicholas Guildenhuys and Ryan Tolsma, among several volunteers as well.

The YEP for Kids Foundation teaches after-school coding classes at local elementary schools. They try to stray away from coding websites and online programs.

“Those programs are not entirely adequate in teaching kids how to code.” Hersowitz explained. “It’s essentially just copying and pasting what’s on the screen.”

Instead, the club provides a hands-on, personal learning experience to kids at Newport Coast, Pomona and Eastbluff.

Additionally to enriching local students, the program aims to expand their project overseas. Last summer, Hersowitz discovered the nonprofit Good Work Foundation (GWF). He visited the organization’s tech center located at a game reserve in Kruger Park, South Africa.

“There was a village there in the middle of nowhere, and in the village there was a computer lab with iPads and other high-tech software,” Hersowitz recalled.

The GWF is focused on establishing Internet access and education for students in rural areas of South Africa. The YEP Foundation is currently in the process of attempting to send over beam telepresence robots. These technological marvels allow face-to-face communication without the hassle of traveling. Hersowitz plans to control the robots from his own setting in Newport Beach to teach kids in South Africa coding basics. He also hopes that the club members can someday fly out to South Africa in to meet the kids.

Hersowitz also wants to take his vision across the World Wide Web.

Hersowitz plans to expand his endeavors online by building a learning-management system. This would make it easier to expand to different elementary schools, because everything could be done through a software program. It allows for the students and volunteers to connect and practice coding using quizzes and other learning tools.

The group’s current campaign, Code Matters, focuses on raising awareness about computer science (CS) education in schools. Hersowitz also runs an on-campus club, open to all students of all technological levels. Students do not have to be entirely tech-savvy or proficient at coding to join. The foundation also offers great community service opportunities, where students can help and supervise at after-school coding classes.

Coding is becoming an increasingly important skill that students will need to utilize in order to succeed in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there will be approximately one million unfilled jobs in computer science by 2024.

With projects like YEP for Kids becoming a reality, the next generation will be prepared to take the next great leap forward.

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