By Margaret King
Learning web development through UC San Diego Extension's Futures program was an inspiring experience for Adrian Sandoval. In fact, after the coronavirus pandemic hit, Adrian was motivated to keep honing his computer skills by starting an online coding club through his school.
The club started out small, says Adrian, a senior at High Tech High School in Chula Vista, but he is hoping to recruit more members now that the new school year has started. "Even with a small group, it's still really fun," he says. "It has been nice to have that connection at a time like this."
Last September Adrian enrolled in a 9-month series of Futures Front-End Web Development classes at Jackie Robinson YMCA in Southeast San Diego. The classes moved online in March because of the pandemic, and Adrian finished the series of three courses in June.
UC San Diego Extension created Futures to allow high school students to master high-demand career skills while earning Extension credits. Courses are grouped under headings like Program Your Future for coding and Manage Your Future for business management. Scholarships are available to cover course costs.
Adrian isn't a newcomer to tech. "I've been interested in computer science almost my entire life," he says. His godfather, a robotics engineer, sparked his interest by taking him to robotics competitions. In eighth grade, he remembers job-shadowing a Navy project development leader who was working to create robotic fish.
Before enrolling in Futures, Adrian had taken online coding tutorials and dabbled in web development, but he hadn't taken formal classes. When he heard about Futures, he was eager to sign up.
"I knew that if I learned web development, I could turn it into a side hustle but also maybe take it further," he says. He envisioned doing web development jobs to earn money during college.
He relished revising and enhancing his portfolio over time. "The cool thing about coding is that you go back and change anything whenever you want to," he says.
Adrian particularly enjoyed work sessions during the in-person classes at the YMCA. "It felt like I was problem-solving with a group of like-minded students," he says. "We could ask each other for help and learn from each other. It helped me learn things rapidly in a way I couldn't have if I were working alone."
When the pandemic forced the Futures classes online, Adrian missed collaborating with his fellow students. But the teacher, Arthur Twiss, found ways to stay connected. "Our teacher hosted weekly Zoom meetings so we could ask him about whatever we needed help with," Adrian notes. "We could email him and he would answer quickly."
As the Futures classes wound down, Adrian was eager to keep going. He signed up for an ICAT Python programming course. He also launched an online coding club through Chula Vista High Tech High, with members holding a 30-minute Zoom meeting each week.
The high school had a budget set aside to support clubs during quarantine, Adrian explains. School officials offered to pay for an online course for the coding club. The members chose a videogame development class based on the Unity game engine.
Adrian recently embarked on a new web development project related to video production. He got interested in video-making in eighth grade when he and two classmates won third place in a national documentary competition sponsored by C-SPAN. Their video examined the relationship between education levels and incarceration rates.
Now Adrian is developing a website for a video business he and a friend dreamed up. "We had the idea of starting a business where I would create a website where people could go to hire a video editor," he explains. "I know that's a growing industry."
He's looking forward to finding more opportunities to apply his web development skills. "I really enjoy being able to personalize every aspect of a website," he says. "There are no limitations. I can make whatever I want."
Adrian balances his computer studies with an active schedule. He is on his school's varsity tennis and cross-country teams, and he also likes to mountain bike and hike.
After high school, he is leaning toward attending a college in the UC system. "My top school is UC San Diego because I'm interested in their computer science program," he says. "I've done like three campus visits, and I really like the atmosphere there."
He is still pondering possible career paths. "My goal is to do something with software development or coding," he says. "But I don't want to just sit at a desk all day. I also have good leadership skills and good communication skills, so that's something I want to use."
Adrian would recommend Futures classes to students with beginning or intermediate coding knowledge. "The teacher goes through everything from the very beginning," he says. "If you're a beginner, you're going to learn everything you need, and if you're an intermediate student, there's still a lot you're going to learn as the course progresses."
Do you have a high school student in your life who wants to explore professions like programming, business management or life sciences? Take a look at the Futures website to find out more.