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Teens Give Back with Free Coding Classes

Friday, December 8, 2017

“You can help anyone and accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.”

Adapted from a story by Renee Remsberg of the Los Altos Town Crier. You can access the original article here.

Cousins Robert Beliveau and Nicholas Verzic, who both attend Khan Lab School, are offering free coding classes to students of all ages in Mountain View and Los Altos, continuing their history of giving back to the community.

Cousins Robert Beliveau and Nicholas Verzic posing together during a class.

The first time they joined forces to give back to the community, they were ages five and seven, respectively. Inspired by seeing homeless animals on the street, they set up lemonade and soda stands in 2009 to raise money for Humane Society Silicon Valley. Robert later created Coding for Change, a club at Khan Lab School that teaches students how to build a website while fundraising for the Humane Society.

Nicholas and Robert decided to provide free coding classes when they saw a need in their community that had to be filled.

“We started with the intent to help animals, but we began seeing people with fewer opportunities who could not work with the technology and skills they had,” said Nicholas. The cousins decided to hold coding classes to give people the knowledge to succeed later in life. Robert said he believes it’s important for kids to learn how to code at an early age because it helps open up more job opportunities for them in the future.

Their first coding class, held at the Los Altos main library, drew approximately 25 children. They have taught groups as large as 100 students, ranging from 8 to 14 years old.

Nicholas and Robert have offered their coding class each summer for the past two years. 

“Our motto is, ‘Help others help others,’” Nicholas said. “We don’t want to just teach them how to code – we want to give them the opportunity to help others. Coding teaches problem-solving skills which can be applied in every aspect of life.”

Robert Beliveau teaches a coding class.

The best part of teaching the class has been seeing kids understand new concepts. “Everyone seems motivated to be here,” said Nicholas. “There isn’t a single person who doesn’t want to be here. Everybody wants to be present and wants to learn. Some people learn because they want to teach other people.” That is their ultimate goal: that every person they teach will pass on the knowledge to someone who can use it in their own way.

Both Robert and Nicholas said they have felt themselves growing and maturing during the process.

“I’ve gained the mentality that you can help anyone and that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it,” said Robert.

The cousins use their website to track their philanthropy and inspire others. Their future projects include fundraising for the homeless in their community.

Robert and his classmates with their Coding for Change certificate.


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