Two Chicago-area teens among 13 coding scholarship winners

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Charbel Bourjas of Harold Richards High school in Oak Lawn, and Jillian Pflederer of Lincoln Park High School, won scholarships to attend a summer workshop put on by the Flatiron School. | Provided

Charbel Bourjas doesn’t have to try to teach himself how to write computer code anymore.

Bourjas is one of two Chicago-area teens will code their summers away at the Flatiron School’s summer workshops in Chicago.

Joining him as just two of 13 winners nationwide is Jillian Pflederer. The 18-year-olds were selected by Flatiron and DoSomething.org — a national organization that funds initiatives encouraging social change. They will get a full ride to the two-week summer workshop, which normally costs $2,000.

“Winners were selected based on their vision and commitment to using technology to make the world a better place,” said Lyle Resner, director of Flatiron’s pre-college program. “Both Do Something.Org and the Flatiron School know that teenagers often bring a unique perspective to [social] issues, and we want to amplify their voice and give them real tools to advance causes that they care about.”

More than 1,500 teens applied for the scholarship nationwide to attend the workshops put on by Flatiron, a school focusing on Web and mobile development.

“Coding” is the art of learning to write computer code — the instructions that tell a computer what to do. The workshops cost $2,000 and focus on teaching students how to code and build apps. Sessions start in June at the Merchandise Mart headquarters of 1871, a technology startup hub.

Pflederer, a senior at Lincoln Park High School, said she applied because she doesn’t know much about coding and wants to learn more.

“Coding is the foundation to future job markets and technological advances that will dominate the next couple decades, and I want to be a part of that process,” she said. “I was so excited that I could still apply even though I didn’t have a lot of experience in programming.”

Bourjas, a senior at Harold Richards High School in Oak Lawn, said he was thrilled when he learned he had gotten the scholarship.

“I will be able to learn how to progress the world with the device that I carry in my book bag every day,” he said.

The 18-year-old had been trying to teach himself how to code; the scholarship allows him to take formal lessons.

“With learning how to properly code, I believe my options to innovate are limitless. We are shifting more towards technology for everyday things, and it is a field that is still relatively new, even with all of the inventions we have today,” he said.

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