Coding for the Community: How One KU Boot Camp Student Elevated His Abilities to Affect Real Change
Reggie Brown has always looked for ways to contribute to his Kansas City community. But after joining University of Kansas’ Coding Boot Camp, he realized he could use his coding and development skills to influence the real and lasting change he sought.
“I’m driven by building relationships and helping to improve the lives of the people around me,” said Reggie. “And the best way I can do that is by using my technical skills to make sure they have agency to prosper and flourish.”
The boot camp provided him with the resources, structure, and motivation to bolster his own coding abilities—and empower people in an entirely new way.
A budding passion
As a kid, having moved to the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee with his family, Reggie spent a lot of time at the local public library. At 12, he discovered books on HTML and CSS—and a lifelong interest in coding.
His infatuation soon grew. In the Boy Scouts, Reggie met another boy who was also interested in computers and coding. The two formed a tight bond around their mutual passion.
“I think maybe that was the foundation for my understanding that technology is a way to bring people together,” Reggie said.
Back then, Reggie didn’t become a full-fledged developer. He took a few college programming classes and built simple websites. But there was a gap in his knowledge base.
Fortunately, a friend told him about a coding boot camp he’d gone through. Reggie looked into similar boot camps closer to home in Kansas City and a few months later, became a member of the first KU Coding Boot Camp.
New commitment, new accomplishment
With his previous experience, the first month of boot camp was pretty simple for Reggie. But that changed when he started learning Node.js. It quickly became apparent that he would need to dedicate a lot more time and energy if he wanted to get the most out of this opportunity.
Reggie gave it his all.
“It was a challenge,” Reggie said. “But my unwavering interest really became the driving force to help me meet that challenge.”
As camp neared its halfway point, Reggie got involved with Code for Kansas City’s civic hack-a-thon—a local coding event geared toward developing digital platforms to benefit the community. There, he had the chance to work on a project that made it easier for the city to process claims on foreclosed or abandoned properties.
The chance to code and help his city really spoke to Reggie. But he was nervous going in, unsure if he’d know enough to be useful. Luckily, he got immediate reassurance.
“I talked with one gentleman who was the CTO at his company. And I realized that the skills I’d been learning at boot camp matched up perfectly with what [someone like him] practiced every day. It was a huge confidence boost,” Reggie said.
He took that confidence into his final group project: a web application that matches the extra food from restaurants, grocery stores, catering companies, and similar companies with those in need—soup kitchens, food banks, and homeless shelters.
Not only did Reggie learn the ins and outs of application architecture, he also learned how to lead and inspire his team for the greater good.
“Boot camp helped me learn how to strategize and standardize processes so everyone is on board. [Plus I learned a] tremendous amount of hard skills,” he said.
Impacting change. Empowering the next generation of coders.
The claims processing initiative Reggie worked on at the Code for Kansas City hack-a-thon went live at the end of March—after nearly six months of dedication and work.
Code for Kansas City is also helping Reggie build the relationships to bring his final boot camp project to life—with the goal to reduce food waste in the community.
Since finishing boot camp, Reggie landed a job as a software developer for Oberd, where he develops applications that provide surgeons with outcomes-based data research to improve the level of care they’re able to provide.
Having found a way to refine his coding skills and serve his community, it would seem that Reggie achieved his goal. But he wasn’t done just yet.
He also became a TA for KU Coding Boot Camp.
“I want to empower another wave of people who would like to learn to be developers,” Reggie said. “My boot camp instructors and TAs had a massively positive impact on me—and this is a great way for me to do that for another group of students.”