By Margaret King
Anson Lee has his sights set on a career in software engineering. By completing the Futures Front End Web Development program through UC San Diego Extension, he has taken several big steps toward that goal.
The coding skills Anson mastered will benefit him in college and beyond. Futures also helped him land a cybersecurity internship where he is gaining valuable work experience. In addition, the Extension credits he earned will help him realize his college goals sooner.
Anson started the year-long series of web development classes as a senior at Olympian High School in Chula Vista. He graduated in June and enrolled in San Diego City College while continuing the Futures program.
Futures was created by UC San Diego Extension in partnership with community members and industry experts to enable high school students to learn skills that will be in demand for the workforce of the future. Courses are grouped under headings like Program Your Future for coding and Manage Your Future for business management.
The series Anson completed consisted of five courses held on Saturdays at Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library. Going forward, Futures will offer three-course programs lasting 8 to 9 months. When students finish a program, they will receive an award of completion and Extension credits. Scholarships are available to cover course costs.
“For a career, I want to focus on software engineering,” he explains. “I believe this is a good step to reach my goal.”
Overall, though, he found the level of difficulty appropriate and the classes highly rewarding. “I liked the environment because all the different students were working together with the single purpose of learning computer science,” he says.
The students started out by programming simple websites, including a personal portfolio. As Anson mastered new skills, he kept upgrading his portfolio. “I added more ways to interact with the website, and I categorized all the different subjects so you can see all my projects,” he says.
In fact, he’s still tweaking the portfolio. “I hope one day I’ll be satisfied enough to show it to an employer,” he says. “Looking at this as opposed to just a resume, employers can visualize what I’ve done – they can see my programming skills in actuality.”
At the same time Anson was taking the Futures classes, he was competing as a member of the Academic Decathlon team at Olympian High. His team finished first in San Diego County and went on to the statewide competition in Sacramento, where they finished second in their division.
The time demands of Academic Decathlon sometimes conflicted with Anson’s coding studies. “It was very difficult to balance both things because both were main priorities to me,” he says.
Juggling those competing priorities gave Anson an idea for another of his web development projects – a site to help harried high school seniors. “I thought it would be really nice to create a website that would make the transition from high school to college easier,” he says.
His website combines information about different colleges, the application process and financial aid with more personal tips about how to manage stress and maintain well-being.
Meanwhile, one of Anson’s Futures instructors recommended him for an internship working on cybersecurity for the City of San Diego. Anson discovered that the Futures classes were good preparation for joining the high-tech workforce.
“The skills I’ve learned from the classes have really helped me during the internship – the programming in general, but also the things I learned about how to solve different problems,” he says.
His next goal is to transfer from City College to UC San Diego to continue his computer studies. Fortunately, the credits he earned from Futures, along with AP classes he took in high school, put him in a position to transfer soon.
Looking back over the year-long program, Anson can see how Futures broadened his outlook. “It expanded my view of programming,” he says. “I had a very linear idea of it, but this class introduced me to a lot of coding languages and showed me how programming can be expanded to a lot of different projects.”
In fact, Anson says he would recommend Futures to “pretty much anyone,” even students who aren’t planning on tech careers. “Learning programming will help you in other fields,” he says. “It will help you develop a mindset so you can solve problems and become more efficient.”