By Margaret King
Signing up for a year-long web development course was the last thing on Michelle Sen’s mind.
Michelle, a 10th grader at High Tech High International in Point Loma, dreams of becoming a veterinarian. She is more interested in learning about biology than in sitting at a computer tapping out code.
“I definitely never thought I would be interested in coding in any way,” she said. When she watched her dad, a software engineer, at work, her reaction was, “I don’t think I want to do that.”
But Michelle realized there were good reasons to learn some programming. “I know that coding is a big part of our future,” she said. “And our school requires us to do a digital portfolio.” With a nudge from her dad, she signed up to earn a Front End Web Development certificate through Program Your Future. She is attending a series of five classes at Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library.
To her surprise, she finds herself enjoying the classes. “It’s been a discovery – I like that I can code something and see the results of what I do,” she said. “I definitely will try more coding in the future than I would have before.”
At the end of the 1-year program, Michelle will receive a UC San Diego Extension certificate. Students who finish shorter courses get an award of completion.
Michelle is currently in the fourth of the five classes in the web development series. As students master different skills, the projects they tackle get tougher. In the first class, students coded their own simple websites. In the second class, they added features so users could input information. In the third class, they created interactive websites where users could play games.
Now Michelle is working with a group to create a web application. So far, her team has been brainstorming ideas for their project. “Maybe we’ll do an app that would tell you the eco-friendly things you can do,” she said. “Another idea is to do a health app for dogs that would track their calories.” Coming up with ideas, she said, is “really a fun part of our projects.”
Michelle also is having fun with the visual aspects of web development – creating designs, changing colors and making animations. “There’s definitely a creative component to coding,” she said. “I’m not a very good artist, but I like the creative side.”
The difficulty level of the Program Your Future courses is “definitely perfect” for most of her fellow students, Michelle said. But she sometimes feels challenged: “I came in completely inexperienced, and I think I’m running a little behind.”
Her instructor has helped her get more comfortable, though. “The instructor is very patient, and he helps me with everything,” she said.
She is already finding practical value in her new skills. “A lot of the internships I apply for, they say, ‘You’ll have a better chance of getting in if you have some coding knowledge.’ And I’m like, I have that now!”
She also knows that her coding skills will be a plus in her professional future. If she opens her own veterinary clinic, she will need a website. “You have to make your website look appealing, so some of what I am learning will be really helpful,” she said.
Michelle’s career goals haven’t changed, but she is seeing new possibilities. “I want to study biology and be a veterinarian,” she noted. “But yesterday I asked my dad, ‘Can you major in two things that are completely unrelated, like biology and computer science?’”