A pair of students at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School have a lot to celebrate when they return to school next month, after taking the top spot at the SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta in June.
Jean-Paul Metoyer and Carl Omondi, both seniors for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, won Gold at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Web Design & Development. The pair are a part of the Coding Initiative at Wunsche, which was founded at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year as a student-led and developed program to teach computer programming, coding, and website development during students’ free study hall. Over the last school year, it has gained dozens of members.
In the spring, the Coding Initiative took two teams to the SkillsUSA state championship — Omondi and Aaron Lopez, who took first place at the state level, as well as Aureyana Smith and Ejemeayen Ukinamemen, who took second. Both teams competed on the national level in Atlanta.
Lopez, who co-founded the Coding Initiative with Omondi last fall and graduated from Wunsche in June, was unable to attend this summer’s national championship.
“Even though I was not able to travel to Atlanta, I felt as though my spirit was there with them,” he said.
Metoyer teamed up with Omondi in Atlanta, and knew going in that the competition was stiff.
“During the competition orientation, we had a few conversations with other competitors and realized that we were actually going up against some of the best younger developers in the [country],” Metoyer said. “When we were announced as the one of the three state finalists, it was a feeling that all the effort we put in finally paid off. Even though it was a long process, we had fun through it all — from the fundraising to competing. We hope to be back next year.”
It is a sentiment shared by Omondi, who also noted that he and Metoyer were two of only three black students in the finalists’ ranks.
“Jean-Paul and I had obviously discussed becoming national champions many times prior to that moment when we saw our names, but we also both knew that every other team representing their respective states all had the same goal in mind,” Omondi said. “Immediately following the tide of joy when we first read our names as finalists and heard the entire Texas delegation cheering for us, I was somewhat relieved.”
The entire Coding Initiative helped fundraise for the trip to Atlanta. Carolyn Gereke, a business teacher at Wunsche High School, was the Initiative’s staff sponsor during the school year and helped chaperone the trip to the national championships.
“I am extremely proud of Carl and Jean-Paul. It’s been a magical year, and they worked hard for their success,” Gereke said. “They are very talented young men, and it shows in everything they do. I am honored to be their sponsor, and a part of their journey. It makes me emotional to think how much they accomplished in one year.”
Both Metoyer and Omondi, along with fellow Coding Initiative members Smith and Ukinamemen, were also recognized at the May Board of Trustees meeting with a Point of Pride award for their state-level championship.
The club is already making plans for next year’s championship and beyond.
“Jean-Paul and I are making plans to defend our title at next year’s SkillsUSA Conference,” Omondi said. “We are also excited to expand our impact through our club, which teaches other students how to code — especially in relation to the middle school tours that we periodically organize and host at Wunsche.” The group is developing a website and online resource at codinginitiative.org, which should be fully developed by next spring. The Coding Initiative hopes the website will provide a point of reference and guidance for future members of the club.