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In my opinion, CS50 is as good as an online course can be. We are currently using it to train several hundred new coders in St. Louis. At the end of the course, we have over 100 companies waiting to hire the graduates. Free education followed by real employment – it doesn’t get much better than that. Or so I thought. When I couldn’t come up with any suggestions for the course, David suggested bringing 12 members of the CS50 team to St. Louis for an all-night Hackathon with our students. I had to admit, that would make the course better.

Our students were thrilled. Nearly 300 arrived last Friday in downtown St. Louis and cranked code until 2 AM. David and his team were treated like educational rock stars, including photo and autograph sessions. Monsanto covered the travel costs, Pi Pizza donated food and a dozen local mentors helped students with their projects.

Students check in to Launch Code event in St. Louis Most of the students in the class are seeking jobs through LaunchCode and are highly motivated to learn the material. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described, the LaunchCode class is an eclectic mix: “hipsters in skinny jeans, retirees with pot-bellies, homeys with flat-brimmed ball caps. Even grandmothers…with their families.”

Walking around one gets a sense of the diversity, excitement, and self-determination of the students. There’s Ben who with no prior coding experience, quit his 20+ year job as a truck driver and dove head first into CS50. There’s Sam, who finding himself struck working retail jobs after graduating college with an English major, is crushing CS50 and gotten to the point where he is actively helping other students. There is an entire three generational family – sons and a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother, all taking the CS50 class together. At the close of the night, the daughter said it had been the greatest night of her life.

From an organizer perspective, the most remarkable part was the number of people who described CS50 as a life changing experience. As one of our students tweeted, “My favorite TV characters are coming to visit. Except they are real people.”

It can always be better.

By Jim McKelvey, Co-Founder of Launch Code

LaunchCodeLaunchCode is an initiative that remove traditional ‘credential’ barriers for entry into developer jobs. They started five months ago with the basic premise that tremendous resources exist online for anyone to learn coding skills, they just needed a way in the door. LaunchCode has partnered with over 100 companies—from 2-person startups to Fortune 500 companies—to offer a new on-ramp to good jobs. In January LaunchCode started offering the Harvardx version of CS50. In February, LaunchCode flew to Cambridge to meet with the CS50 team. In March, 12 members of the CS50 team flew to St. Louis for a Hackathon. You can read more about LaunchCode here and follow LaunchCode on Twitter at @LaunchCodeSTL.  

Jim McKelvey is the Co-Founder of LaunchCode, a General Partner with Cultivation Capital and the Co-Founder and Director of Square – a mobile payments company that allows merchants to accept credit and debit card payments through their smartphones or tablets.