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Coding Programs Prep Augusta Students for Cyber Careers

In and around Augusta, Ga., schools are incorporating cyber skills into curricula while programs such as CodeFu and Brown Girls Code offer workshops, guest speakers and skills training for all ages.

(TNS) — Ray Battle was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army who spent a lot of his time around computers.

"I worked in the cyber unit here on Fort Gordon ... now I'm a cybersecurity engineer, a research engineer and a software engineer," Ray said. "Tech isn't going anywhere. If anything, tech is really going to shape our future."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics backs that up, estimating at least 180,000 openings in cyber-related jobs every year from 2020 to 2030.

With demand for these skills on the rise, more and more people of all ages are being recruited to learn them. Here are some of the Augusta-area's educational cyber programs:

The CodeFu offers options for kids and teens. Jennifer Moran brought the franchise to the area in 2019. She learned cyber skills after leaving the military, and the education taught her how much "cybersecurity, and also coding, is affecting the everyday world."

The program teaches kids at various schools and organizations, all the way out to Taliaferro County, how to create virtual stories and games. Some of the curriculum includes very basic "color block coding" for pre-K students, a Minecraft class for Augusta Preparatory Day School's students, and video-game design with Bloxels for the Boys and Girls Club. The end-result allows the students to launch their content online for anyone to enjoy.

Moran said the classes are done on campuses and any school or organization that wants to feature CodeFu need only submit an online form.

In keeping with his view of the future, Battle celebrated the grand opening of his coding school, Code Ninjas, in Evans off North Belair Road on Saturday. He's running the franchise location with his wife, Ebony, where they also teach kids how to create their own video games after school.

"We want to be able to make the next generation of coders, we want them to know the foundational concepts," Battle said.

Also, because some computer-people can get caught in the zone and spend hours sitting and staring at the screen, Battle wants to also teach them how to have "a healthy lifestyle when it comes to coding."

Statista reported this past summer that in big tech companies like Apple and Facebook, only one out of four women hold technology-related leadership positions. That rang true for Ebony Brown, who said females were a rarity in her coding classes, "and definitely not other Black females."

That's why she started Brown Girls Code in 2018. The program includes a broad range of workshops on topics like robotic engineering and cyber-bullying prevention, various clubs and events where kids meet spokespeople on cyber career options.

They have been meeting virtually since March 2020, but Brown said they have formed a partnership with Augusta Technical College, so her Augusta-chapter students will soon be meeting in-person there.

Though the mission is to "increase the pipeline of Black and Brown girls," Brown said they welcome children of every race, gender and background for the after-school lessons.

For those wanting to learn cyber skills to make a career pivot or just to beef up their résumé, there is Code Boot Camp organized by the This is a 12-week program for any skill level that turns its students into competent web developers. As the name suggests, this requires a full-time commitment of Monday through Friday from noon to 8 p.m. However, graduates from the program have gone on to become engineers and developers at companies like NetFoundry and Rural Sourcing, Inc.

The is a business center that offers workspace, workshops and several other amenities meant to foster growth. It's located at the Georgia Cyber Center off 11th Street in downtown Augusta.

Challenge Preparatory Academy, a private school that opened in Augusta's Harrisburg neighborhood in August, is focused on teaching children cyber curriculum while also teaching the core classes.

"They are the next generation of creators and we want them to have some sense of obligation to be moral and ethical in how they use (cyber)," Mayreather Willis, the school's principal and one of its teachers, told The Augusta Chronicle at the start of the school year.

The school also offers a wide variety in programming such as an after-school program on cyber literacy for grades 4 through 9 and cybersecurity education for 6th graders all the way up to adults.

©2021 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.