Jefferson Award Winners Share Skills of The Future With Free ClassesBy Elizabeth Cook

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) Most high school students would rather spend their summer vacations far away from the classroom. But Jefferson Award winners Vineet Kosaraju and Nikhil Cheerla are choosing to go back to school, and this time they are the teachers.

“I think it’s really nice that I can help the community by spending just a little bit of time every week by helping just a few students here and there try and learn programming,” Kosaraju said.

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Friends since they were young boys, Kosaraju and Cheerla always shared a love of computer science. They learned the skills from their parents and school, but recognized that not all kids have that opportunity.

“Programming isn’t taught in that many schools, especially low income schools, because there isn’t that much to fund it,” said Kosaraju.

So he and Cheerla developed “Math and Coding,” an after school program for kids of all ages to learn the basics of computer programming.

“These are the sorts of skills you don’t necessarily get in math class or reading class,” Cheerla said. “Because you get really broken down problems.”

Between applying for college and doing their own homework, these guys now spend a few hours every week going to different libraries teaching classes that cover everything from building basic games to developing apps.

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“Knowing that there is a real need for these kinds of classes, it helps me make time if I don’t have it,” said Kosaraju.

The friends started the program a little over a year ago and already, it’s spread to more than a dozen libraries across the Bay Area. They are even training volunteers to each these very same classes in other states and Canada.

Maryann Mitchell brought her 8-year-old granddaughter, Gabriella, to a class on coding at the Alum Rock Library in San Jose.

“It’s an opportunity for her to learn,” Mitchell said. “It’s the way of the future, and it’s a good way for her to get grounded and be ready for what the future holds.”

“I think the most rewarding thing is having people come up and thank you and say they really learned a lot from this class,” Cheerla said. ” It doesn’t get any better than that.”

So for giving kids the code to success in and out of the classroom, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Vineet Kosaraju and Nikhil Cheerla.

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Vineet and Nikhil have also launched a new fundraising campaign to produce a programming board game for kids aged 7+. To support their efforts, click here.

Elizabeth Cook