ASHTABULA — Graduates can now Code It after completing a highly innovative computer technical program.

Smiles filled the graduates’ faces as each one walked to grab their long-awaited certificate on Saturday at St. John School. All five of them shook their instructor, Ernest Bluford’s, hand as the cameras flashed in their direction.

We Can Code It is a computer technical training program that was offered at St. John School for the first time this fall. St. John School President Sister Maureen Burke said in an email, this program was designed to make people feel comfortable with learning technology and software development. 

We have innovative teaching methods to leverage in-class and hands-on learning and bridge the knowledge gap to produce talented and diverse technical professionals, said Burke.

Bluford is the web tech instructor for We Can Code It and started a summer bootcamp not too long ago. He asked the CEO for the position because of his background in marketing, analytics and coding.

Bluford added and changed some things in the curriculum and said, “It’s been ever evolving since I got here (St. John School) just based on the student’s needs.”

The class started in late August for a 10-week period. They met three times a week, including some nights and Saturdays.

Maria Abbott, one of the graduates, and her husband own a marketing business, the Ashtabula Training Center. Abbott said she was looking for better ways to build her business and potentially help other businesses, too.

She said she was excited for the class because, “This is not something that we ever had here in Ashtabula.”

Another graduate, Joseph Roskovics, said there are employers in Ashtabula who want to fill positions in analytics and development, but there are not enough qualified people.

Roskovics previously attended St. John School and said Sister Burke told him about the free program because he studied computer technology at Kent State University Ashtabula.

“I dropped out the second semester of my first year, because the degree wasn’t what I thought it was. I expected it to be more coding rather than just working with Microsoft, Excel and reading out of a textbook,” said Roskovics.

Roskovics said the class learned HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Google Analytics, HubSpot and a little bit of Python. “I definitely enjoyed learning the HTML and CSS more than the analytics, it’s a bit difficult but not too hard.”

Sabrina Andrew, Code It graduate, said the program was great. “I thought the whole class was really fun. Ernest made it fun and they provided a lot of resources that I didn’t expect,” she added.

“Things that we were totally unaware of, had resources out there that were very beneficial to us. They gave us a lot of good tools to use, not only during the class, but in the future,” said Abbott. 

An unofficial full-time coding class is being offered by We Can Code It in January and will be instructed by Bluford. The class is an entry-level course into network infrastructure.

Andrew said she’s attending the full-time boot camp in Cleveland and hopes to earn a job as a software developer after that.

Bluford taught business writing in his class and said seeing the evolution of their progress pleased him.

“We have young people, we have older people, we have retirees in the class. Just watching the students’ growth in constructing emails and resumes has been wonderful,” he said.

“I feel happy about (graduation). I dropped out of college and this is the first thing that I actually completed, so it’s like I achieved a goal and it’s rewarding,” said Roskovics.

“If we’re able to do this again here, I’m all for it,” said Bluford.


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