Posted by Peter Lubbers, Senior Program Manager, Google Developer Training
In January, as a part of Grow with Google’s ongoing commitment to create economic opportunities for Americans, the Google Developer Scholarship Challenge—hosted in partnership with Udacity—awarded nearly 50,000 scholarships to aspiring developers from a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels.
In April, the 5,000 top performers in the Scholarship Challenge earned scholarships for a full Udacity Nanodegree program. These scholars come from every part of the United States, range in age from the late teens to the late sixties, and vary in experience from beginning to advanced. Despite these differences, they share a desire to strengthen their web and Android development skills, and to grow professionally.
Together, they’ve created nearly 18,000 web and Android apps, and exchanged over 2 million messages on the support channels. Students all across the country have reported new jobs, career advancement, and engagement in community programs as a result of their scholarships.
We’d share every story if we could, as they’re all remarkable. But today, we introduce you to five scholars in particular. Because of their hard work, and what they’ve made of the scholarship opportunity, their lives and careers have changed in dramatic ways. Let’s meet them now.
Kansas City, MO
From Missouri Long-Haul Trucker to Web Developer
Tony Boswell was a long-haul truck driver for 14 years. He covered over 1.5 million miles, drove through almost every state in the US, and hauled everything from fresh produce to crude oil. It was steady work, but it required being away from home 320 days out of every year. Tony told us “My wife was home alone and we were living two entirely separate lives.”
Last year, at age 48, Tony decided he had to make a change. Despite not having any transferable skills or relevant work history, he believed he could become a developer. He applied to the Grow with Google Developer program, and earned the Nanodegree scholarship. It was the right move. Tony completed his Nanodegree program in September, and recently found a full-time position focused on front-end web development. Thanks to the career lessons included in his program, he was able to confidently negotiate a $10,000+ increase in his starting salary offer.
“I am happy to say, thanks to the education, training, and coaching that I received from this program, I have finally completed my transition from the open road and a steering wheel, to accepting the title of Technical Support Specialist — Web Developer. I can truly say that my whole life has changed because of coding.”
Virginia Beach, VA
From Virginia Homemaker to Technology Apprentice
Kimberly McCaffery applied for the Grow with Google scholarship to acquire new skills that would help her transition back to the workforce. She is a mother of four, and has been a military spouse and homemaker for over 20 years. She was motivated to apply because she recognized the need to contribute financially to her family:
“Since 1999, we’ve moved 10 times; in the US and overseas. When we got back to Virginia, I returned to the workforce as a substitute teacher. The W2 I received was my first one this century, but, my total pay was less than $500! As my husband approaches retirement, I knew it would help us all if I could shoulder more of the load.“
After completing her Front-End Nanodegree program earlier this fall, Kimberly got a job as a Technology Apprentice at MAXX Potential in Norfolk, Virginia. “I’m so pleased and proud! It's 10 minutes from the kid's school, very flexible, and full of challenges with IT as a service. And there is plenty of room within the company to grow as fast as I want!”
From unemployed to Software Engineer
After being laid off from a job in Pennsylvania, Charles and his family moved back to his wife’s hometown in rural Montana, where he struggled to find work as a freelancer. It was a very difficult time, and his confidence suffered.
“I fell into major depression. When my phone rang, I had panic attacks because it was people asking for money. Job-wise, there was nothing in our small town.”
Charles had applied for, and earned, a Grow with Google Scholarship, but there didn’t seem to be a single place where he could apply his skills. He was desperate, but one interview changed everything for him:
“In June I applied for a job at the local cable company to do cable installation. In August I finally got called in for an interview. Immediately the CEO asked me why I didn’t apply for their programming position. I never actually saw it. Instead of an interview for an installer job it turned into the first of 2 interviews for a programming job. For the 2nd interview, I loaded up my phone with all the apps I had made during the Android Basics program. In the interview I answered all the standard questions but it was when I pulled my phone out and showed off the applications I made in the Nanodegree program, that I could tell that I nailed it.“
Two days later, they called and offered Charles the job.
“I never imagined I’d end up doing a job like this. My first day was on September 24.”
Working with Students to Build an Apache Language App
Anna is a Special Education teacher and STEM program coordinator for a middle school in New Mexico. She has a passion for technology, and applied for the Google Developer Scholarship to gain new knowledge and be more helpful to her students and her community.
Anna lives and works near the Mescalero Apache Tribal lands and is now working with her students to develop an Apache language app.
“Students are collecting Apache words and phrases as raw data for the app, and have been working closely with our Apache Language teacher, who is a member of the tribe. Students are designing artwork for the app and are consulting their elders to make it meaningful for Apache people.”
Anna is also having a school-wide drawing contest for the launching icon. During the STEM meetings, students work with Android Studio—they learn how to change the look of their app with XML, and make it do things with Java. “My students are really motivated by this project!”
Building A Website for African Widows and Orphans
Lourdes Wellington worked in the information technology field, but in the back of her mind, she harbored a desire to learn software development. She was gearing up to make that transition, when a serious health crisis put a hold on her plans—it was cancer, and survival meant having part of her right arm amputated. Despite the challenge, she was determined to move forward both physically and mentally:
“Losing my arm was a small price to pay considering I did not lose my life. My mental aptitude became stronger and I began to consider how I wanted to move forward in the future with my life.”
Lourdes successfully applied for the Grow with Google scholarship, and with the new skills she learned in her Front-End Nanodegree program, she went looking for a meaningful way to make an impact. She learned about an organization that benefits African widows and orphans, and decided to get involved. She created a website to help increase visibility for the organization, calling attention to their efforts to raise funds so a fish hatchery and fish ponds can be constructed to feed small villages.
“Taking programming classes with Udacity for website development has motivated me to create even more websites for charity.”
It has been an honor and a pleasure to play a small part in the remarkable journeys each of these scholarship students has undertaken since we first met them back in January. We look forward to seeing how each and every graduate puts their new skills to work to advance their lives, their careers, and the world around them!