Code Nation: The Next Generation of Tech Leaders

We equip students in under-resourced high schools with the skills, experiences, and connections that create access to careers in technology.

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Erica Wong

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • USA

Where are you making a difference?

New York, Bay Area, Chicago

Website or social media url(s)

(Website) (LinkedIn) (Twitter) (Instagram)

When was your organisation founded?


Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $1mil - $5mil

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Code Nation (formerly ScriptEd) was founded by an educator who noted a trend: despite having many students who were obsessed with tech, none considered pursuing the field. At the time, our founder ran a law firm's pro bono program, where lawyers taught mock trial to high schoolers. Inspired by the model, she mobilized tech professionals in her network to teach Javascript. Thus, Code Nation was built on the belief that anyone can learn to code and everyone should have the opportunity to do so. Our curriculum bridges the gap between what schools teach and what the workforce demands. We equip students in under-resourced high schools with the skills, experiences, and connections that together create access to high wage careers in technology.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

High-wage tech jobs are among the most in-demand, but some groups are excluded from accessing them. Only ¼ of high schools offer Computer Science; this drastically decreases in low-income areas. The systemic lack of access has implications — tech employees are 7% Black, 8% Latinx, and 36% women. Especially during periods of economic instability, those most affected by inequity deserve stable careers that can help them enter the middle class.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Code Nation is a free, multi-year career preparation program, powered by volunteers and the tech industry, that supports high school youth in low-income circumstances as they become the next generation of tech leaders. Intro to Web Development (Career Exploration): Students learn web development through HTML, CSS, and Javascript, taught in schools by 4 volunteers who are industry professionals. Fellowship (Career Preparation): We embed our program at tech companies; students continue project-based advanced coding and professional development, mentored by 4 engineers from the company. Alumni (Industry Inclusion): We provide career resources, support, and networking opportunities for our Code Nation alumni. Students' 8-12 mentors from the 2 years in the program can serve as career advisors, professional references, and connections to jobs. By the end of the program, students will have tech mentors, a technical portfolio, projects on GitHub, technical skills, and professional experiences. Activating the tech industry is a key component to our program. Together with schools and tech leaders, we provide the technical learning and professional access the communities we serve.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

We're building a collaborative movement of technologists, teachers, students, families, companies, funders, and schools. The volunteer corps is our greatest asset: 300+ tech workers committed to our mission. Our community mobilizes resources on behalf of Code Nation and serves in critical roles to ensure industry connections. After youth gain exposure, we embed our fellowship classes within tech offices, providing them with deeper access to the industry. Our volunteer teaching force makes scaling possible and sustainable in any tech hub. Tech workers gain valuable cultural competency through working with people of diverse backgrounds; they end up being hiring managers, leaders, and peers of Code Nation alumni as they enter the workforce.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Because engineers volunteer to teach our program, they provide a vital connection to current practices in tech. Code Nation's curriculum council, which consists of tech professionals, alums, and staff, reviews and proposes changes to our curriculum to ensure that it's industry-aligned. This feedback loop with the tech industry ensures we are teaching relevant skills for the future job market. We've chosen to teach front end web development because it is an accessible + in-demand field. Learning Javascript enables students to have the fundamentals to build any application imaginable. Landing a job also requires soft skills such as interviewing, presenting, networking, etc., we also focus on professional development. Code Nation organizes Professional Development Days; throughout the year, Fellows attend Skills Days at companies to continue their development as well-rounded candidates.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

We foster students’ technical skills, professional skills, confidence, sense of belonging, industry connections, as all are essential to launching a tech career. Students learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, ReactJS, and Firebase and showcase those acquired skills on their portfolio website and GitHub; they practice interviews, writing resumes, and networking. We measure technical proficiency through an industry interview platform (HackerRank) and assess professional skills growth in quarterly check-ins, much like employee reviews. We use surveys to monitor confidence and sense of belonging.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

Our programs are all tuition-free and we look for opportunities for students to receive stipends. We also provide students with the necessary supplies (laptops) to participate in the program. We have primarily leveraged partnerships to give students options so they can choose paths that optimize their future financial health. In the past, as program participants received their first paychecks through internships with partner companies, Code Nation partnered with financial institutions to provide workshops for students. We've also partnered with tuition-free boot camps to provide youth with options that include not incurring student debt as they pursue technical careers. We are currently looking for additional partners.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

We are focused on supporting students in finding higher-wage technical jobs. We are adding wage questions to our alumni survey to measure progress. This is a growth area for us.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Although there are many learn-to-code organizations, what sets Code Nation apart is our target population and model. We partner with schools where 75%+ of students qualify for free or reduced lunch; we go beyond coding exposure and provide support from high school until the early career years. Code Nation provides high-quality, in-depth, and advanced technical training as well as career preparation. We are unique in that we don’t just teach coding, but by mobilizing the tech workforce, we foster connections to mentors and companies that prove critical to launching a successful career.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

To date, Code Nation served 5,000 students in 90+ programs in NYC, the Bay Area, and Chicago. This school year, we enrolled 1,500 students in 82 programs nationally. Historically, 8% of low-income high schoolers earn a STEM degree, while 67% of Code Nation alums are studying/working in STEM, with 50% specifically studying/working in CS. By the time alum Jonathan finished our high school program, he had a portfolio; 8 mentors; and 3 technical internships (ZocDoc, Contently, Appboy). He secured 2 other internships/fellowships post high school, before landing at Pinterest. Our alumni are joining the workforce and changing the face of tech. They've received job offers as software engineers at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Oscar Health, Etsy, NPR, and more. Code Nation alumni continue to champion our mission - some even return to classrooms to cultivate the next generation of tech leaders.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Code Nation has an outstanding track record of securing funds from diverse revenue streams (earned income, foundations, corporate, individual donors). CN has grown revenue 50% annually for over 7 years, with multiple seven-figure investments. CN delivers a clear ROI for forward-thinking companies seeking a pipeline of tech talent. We continue to see demand from schools, companies, and volunteers. In 10 years, Code Nation will prepare 20,000 youth for the tech workforce and generate $1B of incremental annual income for their families. Recently, CN invested in fundraising, partnered with McKinsey on strategic planning, and built the infrastructure to scale. We plan to expand in current cities and launch in 7 new tech hubs from 2022-2030.

10. Team

With 33 full-time staff, we have established an outcomes-focused presence in the STEM education community in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Chicago. Code Nation is governed by a Board of Directors who supports national and regional leadership in moving forward a cohesive organizational strategy. Our team includes a 4-person development team that is implementing a national development and sustainability plan. Along with our staff, we have 300+ volunteers in our community.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Race
  • Gender

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

As a woman, I feel a personal connection to the mission of Code Nation to create access to careers in technology to those underrepresented in a field currently dominated by men. I am hopeful that in the future, the face of the tech industry will look drastically different, and the innovation happening will reflect the diversity of the creators.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Everyday, students across NYC, the Bay Area, and Chicago take part in coding classes at Code Nation. In the AM, a staff member travels to a school, alongside 4 tech professionals that volunteer to teach the course. The lead volunteer's job is to make coding come to life, while the others help individual students. In the afternoon, students in Fellowship I travel to a tech company like Salesforce. They know what it's like to work in a tech space. The lead volunteer shares project objectives before they break out into groups with a volunteer and code. Near 6:30PM, they wrap up and reflect on challenges. This is a typical Code Nation day - there are other exciting days like Hackathons, field trips, workshops, and professional development days, where different activities happen, but most days involve deep technical learning and collaboration.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Board Development
  • Multimedia

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Private Foundation - 30%
Donated Goods Services - 24%
Corporate  - 23%
Individual Contributions - 16%
Earned Revenue - 7%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

We plan on closing the year, having raised $4.6M in revenue. We currently have over $1.5M in reserves. For the next fiscal year, which begins August 1, we have line-of-sight to $3M in our revenue projections; we are planning to raise additional funds through foundations and individuals, which have historically been the primary sources for revenue. We have several seven figure investments in the pipeline. Programs are 79% ($4.9M)of our expenses, distributed along Alumni ($170K) and Coding Classes ($4.7M). Non-programs expenses account for $1.3M of our budget, this includes operations and fundraising. Due to COVID-19, we are planning to adjust our financial plan to adapt to the changing landscape. We'd be happy to submit a budget.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our curriculum is open source and accessed by other organizations. With the Robin Hood Foundation and McKinsey, we codified what is most critical to success for expansion: Child Poverty Rate, Tech Presence, Philanthropy, and Quality of Public Transit. We identified 15 target geographic regions that demonstrate a need and have identified corporate partners to help us begin this work. We see tremendous potential to reach more students by bringing on additional partners to build our pipeline. We are also hoping to expand in our current regions (i.e. Richmond and South Bay in the Bay Area).

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

Code Nation’s program is ultimately a pathway toward economic security for youth from under-resourced communities, who will shape the future of tech. Code Nation’s 10 year goal is to prepare 20,000 youth from low-income communities for the tech workforce. Collectively, they can generate $1B in incremental annual income for themselves & their families - an impact that will reverberate for generations to come. We disrupt the narrative of youth simply existing as consumers; they are active creators- the future will be in their hands as they build and innovate tech that better serves our world. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

PropelNext Award (Edna McConnell-Clark), MIT Solve Award, Winburne Award from SXSW, TFA Social Innovation Award, Emerging Innovator Award from Amex, Ashoka - My Voice Our City Award, American Dream Award, White House as a Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion under the Obama Administration, ft. in the Smithsonian, NY Times, Time, Huffington Post, CBS, + Chronicle of Philanthropy

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

We rely on partnerships with schools and companies to execute our program. We leverage relationships with companies that have a national presence to expand our reach to new locations. We've leveraged partnerships with McKinsey, Robin Hood, Dropbox, Edna McConnell Clark, Stephen and Ayesha Curry's Eat Learn Play Foundation, and more, to receive pro bono support in strategic planning, rebranding, marketing, program design and evaluation, and scaling.

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 60%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 40%

Maybe - 20%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 20%

Maybe - 40%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 20%

Yes/maybe - 20%

Maybe - 20%

Maybe/no - 40%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 40%

Maybe - 20%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 75%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 25%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 50%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 33.3%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 66.7%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 33.3%

Other option - 66.7%

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Attachments (2)

[rfr] Code Nation Overview + Meet Luzmarie.pdf

Meet Luzmarie, a current Code Nation student!

1 comment

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Photo of George

Great mam, You are doing such great work. I am wishing you all the best and if you need any help then please let me know.
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