New nonprofit's after-school classes help introduce kids to computer coding

The younger the better.

That's the sentiment of the masters and apprentices of computer coding at Newport Coast Elementary School.

Since early November, about 35 fifth- and sixth-graders at the Newport Beach school have been attending coding classes offered by YEP for Kids, a new nonprofit formed to provide after-school programs at select schools in Orange County.

The Newport Beach-based group, founded by Corona del Mar High School students Albert Szabo and Cole Hersowitz, is operating its first class at Newport Coast.

"Our target will be elementary schools initially so the students can learn these basics starting at an early age," Cole said.

When Cole first reached out to schools about offering YEP (Youth, Entrepreneurship and Programming) classes, his elementary alma mater showed interest. So seven volunteers from the nonprofit, all Corona del Mar High School students, make the trip to Newport Coast Elementary every Friday afternoon to teach coding.

Many of the volunteers sharpened their tech skills by taking Advanced Placement computer science at their school.

For Newport Coast sixth-grader Alana Maher, the YEP class was her first experience with learning how to code.

"I thought it would be an interesting concept to learn how to program things like games," she said. "Even though my dream is to become a scientist, I know that will probably involve making models on the computer."

One of the class projects was to make an electronic dog — which the students named Carol — move forward, spin and zig-zag on their screens.

The coding novices said the task was simple.

"My dad took a coding class in college, but he says he's not as good as me," fifth-grader Aarav Grover said with a laugh. "But if you want to get better at coding, I think the important thing is to keep on trying, learning and working hard. That's how I started getting good at it."

According to Albert, YEP for Kids plans to expand the offering to Eastbluff Elementary School in Newport Beach and Pomona Elementary in Costa Mesa. It also is working to fund development of more software and curriculum for the classes.

"The skills they learn from computer science are applicable in a range of careers," Albert said. "It helps you work on critical thinking, logic and problem solving so you can find the best solution."

For more information or to donate to YEP for Kids, visit yepforkids.org.

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