This summer, just before he starts his senior year at Carl Wunsche Sr High School, Carl Omondi will head to Atlanta for something way beyond his wildest dreams – but also something he’s been planning for since middle school.
Omondi, who wrote his first line of code four years ago, helped start the Coding Initiative at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School about a year ago. And earlier this year, he was part of a team that took the top spot at the SkillsUSA state championship in Web Design and Development, and will head to Atlanta in June to compete on a national level.
But for the current high school junior, the biggest value isn’t the prize or the trip to Atlanta. It’s getting to spread the skills and excitement of coding through the student-run Coding Initiative at Wunsche High School.
“The biggest value that I get out of this is seeing other people ecstatic and super excited about programming. It really just reminds me of my younger self, when I first started coding,” Omondi said. “It would be something so trivial, like changing the color of a button or making this character jump up or changing some graphics on the screen. And I would be so ecstatic. Seeing other people get that feeling of making something that makes them proud, makes them feel good about themselves, that’s the biggest value that I get out of it.”
But there’s still plenty of bragging rights for the school’s Coding Initiative.
At that competition, not only did Omondi take first place with his teammate Aaron Lopez, a senior at Wunsche High School, but juniors Aureyana Smith and Ejemeayen Ukinamemen took second place. Both teams (with Jean-Paul Metoyer teaming up with Omondi since Aaron Lopez will be headed to college) will all be headed to the SkillsUSA’s 59th annual National Leadership & Skills Conference in Atlanta next month.
Those victories are made all the more impressive because this is the first year of the club at Wunsche High School. The district-level competition earlier this year was the first time they had ever competed in coding or web design.
“I was floored. I was so surprised,” Aureyana Smith said. “Seeing that we won second place was really interesting and cool to me, and really shows that this is a potential career.”
The Coding Initiative was originally set up by Omondi and Lopez at the beginning of this school year as a way to spend the sixth period free study hall option for students. It has grown since then to dozens of members.
For Ukinamemen, the club was a way for her to pursue a burgeoning interest of hers.
“It really fascinated me how someone can just sit down one day and create something from scratch,” Ukinamemen said. “I want to do that. I want to make a website, an app, that people will use. The first step was learning how to code, and that’s why I joined the club.”
One of the most impressive – and important to its founders – aspects of the club is that it is entirely student-led.
“That’s really one of our fundamental values as we started this club, that it was student led. So we do everything student-led,” Omondi said. “Whether it’s teaching other students or fundraising, outreach programs or bringing in other middle schoolers, it’s all led by us.”
The Coding Initiative has hosted several workshops for middle school students, starting with Wells Middle School earlier this year. They plan to make those a regular fixture in years to come.
For Carolyn Gereke, a business teacher at Wunsche High School, watching the students grow throughout the year has made an impact on her.
“When they initially came into my classroom at the beginning of the year, I was blown away by the potential of each student,” Gereke said. “They come in every day, determined, and ready to teach their peers. They’re doing college-level work and pulling it off.”
The teams are hoping to raise $3,000 for the national championship in Atlanta. If you would like to donate to help them reach their goal, click here.