Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ) received a grant for $25,000 from Bayer Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer, which will be used to inspire New Jersey’s students for careers in STEM through the JA Crack the Code hands-on learning experience, comprised of a series of free virtual coding and STEM workshops.
The grant will aid in propelling student interest across New Jersey in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.
“JANJ is very grateful to receive these vital funds at this time, and we appreciate Bayer Fund for investing in helping us to prepare and inspire youth for successful STEM careers. Since its inception two years ago, JA Crack the Code has been spearheaded by our alumni. Their leadership has been inspiring to witness. We are proud of the impact this program has made on the future generation,” Catherine Milone, president of JANJ, which is located in Raritan Center in Edison, said in a prepared statement.
Led this school year by JA alumni, Kayla Wong, an ITI (Information Technology and Informatics) major at Rutgers University, alongside the Student Leadership Committee comprised of local high school students with coding and technology experience, Wong and team engage hundreds of middle and high school students through this initiative. High school students serve as role models together with corporate volunteers and provide instruction and mentorship for hundreds of middle school-aged beginners and experienced coders alike, according to the statement.
High school student volunteers for Crack the Code workshops step into the role of an instructor, teaching middle school students (grades 4-8) basic and intermediate computer science skills. Participating middle school students attend these workshops and receive mentorship from both high school and corporate mentors, all to build a computer science portfolio as they continue their education, according to the statement.
In learning about coding and immersing themselves in exercises with mentors including programming, cybersecurity, and web development, middle school students foster a greater sense of knowledge about career pathways in technology, according to the statement. Also, during these workshops, the high school leaders have an opportunity to practice critical soft skills, including teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
“The Student Leadership Committee (SLC) is a once in a lifetime experience. I went from having little knowledge of code, to learning enough to assist in teaching code to high school and middle school students. The SLC has broadened my knowledge of coding and exposed me to the process of making and teaching a subject to high schoolers and middle schoolers,” Joe Guan, a member of the SLC, said in the statement.