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Newport moms and daughters give $30K so kids at Costa Mesa’s Shalimar Learning Center can learn to code

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Members of the Newport Chapter of the National Charity League present a $30,000 check Wednesday to the Think Together Shalimar Learning Center for a new coding program.
(Hillary Davis)

The children of the Shalimar Learning Center in Costa Mesa will learn to code thanks to a $30,000 gift from the Newport Chapter of the National Charity League.

With funding from the Newport National Charity League’s endowment and annual Christmas Boutique craft fair, the group covered the cost of 30 laptop computers, the curriculum and “coaches” to teach programming languages including Java and the kid-friendly Scratch. The donation, which representatives presented Wednesday in the form of an oversized check, is the single largest for the chapter — which has partnered with the Shalimar Learning Center for almost all of the Westside youth organization’s 22 years.

“It was time to do something big and it was time to do it for Shalimar,” said Mara Hampton, the chapter’s immediate past president.

Shalimar Learning Center started out of a modest apartment to offer after-school homework help to at-risk kids in the lower-income, once-dangerous neighborhood. The center’s success led to the formation of Think Together, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that has since replicated its academic programs around Southern California and into the Bay Area.

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Though the densely populated Shalimar neighborhood has calmed over the years, the center still operates out of its original headquarters on Shalimar Drive near 18th Street and Placentia Avenue, helping children succeed in school. The local NCL bunch’s longtime relationship with Shalimar has included peer tutoring in math and language arts.

The front door of the original building of the THINK Together Shalimar Learning Center in Costa Mesa
The front door of the original building of the Think Together Shalimar Learning Center in Costa Mesa.
(File Photo)

Children can work on computers at the center, but this level of computer science is new.

Although California has beefed up its computer science curriculum in public schools, Shalimar Learning Center cannot get state funding to do the same because it is not a school, said Darcie Schott, Shalimar’s manager of community engagement. The center is fully funded by donations.

“To me, that makes it more special and personal, but it’s more challenging from a fundraising angle,” Schott said.

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Enter the NCL. In a happy marriage of interests, Schott was once an NCL mom and she continues to volunteer for the group’s key enterprise, the Ticktocker Thrift Shop on 19th Street. She had a direct line to the charity’s leadership.

Lillian Chung, the local chapter’s vice president for philanthropy and a school psychologist, said the NCL had been considering upgrading the Shalimar kitchen and Wi-Fi. That turned into the soon-to-start coding program.

National Charity League is a Costa Mesa-based mother-daughter service organization that has 268 chapters in 28 states. The local group started in 1957 and its membership currently includes 225 girls in junior high and high school and 56 mothers. The girls are called “Ticktockers” and the moms are called “Patronesses.”

Chung’s daughter is a senior at Sage Hill School and enjoys working in the thrift store. Hampton’s daughter Abby, a Mater Dei High School junior taking precalculus, is about to begin tutoring in math.

She joined her mom, other Newport NCL members and about 50 children for the check presentation. She said she enjoys helping people and, when she assisted a classmate with some math homework last week, “It felt good.”

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