Introducing the Second Cohort of Careers in Code Students!

Hack Upstate
15 min readApr 28, 2021

Careers in Code is a coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming to women and minorities to help combat poverty in Central, NY. We provide students with the technical skills they need to obtain internships and entry level software development jobs with local employers after 24 weeks of instruction. Our first class for cohort 2 began on March 15, 2021 with a group of 18 students.

Read about our first cohort here:

Fobealia Barrett-Wynn

Fobealia is a visual artist and crafter who is currently working on getting her website up and running to support her business. After receiving her master’s degree in social work in 2018, she found the job search to be a challenge. After a lengthy, unproductive job search in social work, she decided to change her career goals. In addition, she had to produce an income in order to make ends meet, so she went back to freelancing.

She’s hoping that through her enrollment in Careers in Code that she can get a job as a Web Developer.

Susan Baiter

Susan was a long-time worker in the service industry but lost her employment when the state shut down. Her partner had accepted a new position prior to the world falling apart, which then caused them to move cities in the middle of NY on “PAUSE”. Susan says that she does not recommend moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone in the midst of a global pandemic!

When she was a manager, she always enjoyed working on the backend of the point of sale system, configuring the screens to be more streamlined and logical in their use. This made her think that she might enjoy coding. She considers herself a quick learner, so she finds the idea of learning a new computer “language” exciting, if not a little daunting.

She said that losing her job due to the pandemic made her realize that she should explore other more stable career paths, but her skills needed some updating. She feels that learning to code will be an avenue to a new career. Upon completion of the program, she hopes to get a job as a web developer.

Karen Baxter

Karen recently relocated to the Cayuga County area after being a lifetime Syracuse resident.

Now that she is a Careers in Code student, she wants to update her skills, and coding has been a long-time interest.

She feels her overall life experience is what makes her unique in that she possesses the qualities of perseverance, reliability, the ability to work independently or within a group, and complete requirements in a timely manner.

She’s happy that she was accepted into Careers in Code because, even though she had always been interested in coding, she hasn’t had the resources to enroll in a program.

She hopes that by completing the program that she will be able to get a job as a web developer.

Brielle Dailey

Brielle started out in a Mechanical Engineering program at SUNY Binghamton, but had to leave due to health concerns. She found her current position as a Direct Support Professional for people with developmental disabilities 5 years ago. She enjoys her current job, and says it’s very rewarding, but she wants to make a career change with more opportunities for advancement and monetary potential. Her goal is to buy her grandparents’ property and be able to afford to build a small house there. Brielle is also an animal lover with a dog, two cats, three goats, and over 100K honey bees.

She has used Codecademy on and off, just exploring HTML and the basics, and says she really enjoyed it. Coding is something she thinks she will be good at and enjoy. She wants to get a job as a web developer.

Sara Dow

Sara currently works as a baker, having fallen into it when her previous employer closed his business. She is looking to get out of food service as soon as possible and is looking to gain a skill set that will serve her in the future and lead to a new career. She says that she really wants to learn and grow because she’s been feeling very stagnant over the past year and isn’t sure what her future should look like.

In addition to being a Careers in Code student, she is currently taking a class on Udemy. She wants to gain skills as a programmer and web developer so that she can have a new career.

Kyle Gilbert

Kyle often sees things from a different perspective than others. She has found this to be a great benefit in finding new ways to approach problems.

She has an instinctive ability and proficiency in languages. Her childhood history of inventing original words to describe actions, sensations, and feelings developed into an avid interest in foreign languages and the study of French, German and a little bit of Spanish. It also led to interests in word origins, the structure and function of language, the relationships between language, culture and history, and an eventual degree in Linguistics. She continues to indulge these interests in her reading, and with the wealth of international movies and television shows now available online — she is often drawn to apply her linguistic skills to decoding languages that she doesn’t understand when watching.

Kyle says that she is a very empathetic person and has derived great satisfaction from the aspects of her various positions that have allowed her to help people. Her strong sense of loyalty and the collegial relationships with coworkers have kept her at her current administrative assistant position, which has expanded her ability to relate to people from diverse cultural backgrounds, the elderly, and people with different life experiences than her own. Her interest in a sense of place and community and the environment drew her to her work with the Cazenovia Lake Association. As a Student Manager in her college’s computer center in the mid-90s, she really enjoyed html coding, and more recently she has taught herself a little Python.

She just missed the application period for the first cohort, having learned about it the day of the kickoff event. While waiting to apply for the second cohort of Careers in Code, she had been teaching herself how to code. She also attended Women in Coding events and one of the Open Hack Software Development meetups, where she had the chance to speak with some of the first cohort students and instructors.

She wants to move into a more interesting and challenging career that uses more of her skills and allows her to apply her problem-solving abilities on interesting projects. She is thrilled to find this opportunity locally which will also enable her to maintain her employment while studying. Everything she’s seen so far leads her to believe this would be a good fit for her. Her long-term goal is a career that combines her background in linguistics with coding knowledge.

She wants to ultimately get a job as a web developer.

Brandy Mack

Brandy has been interested in coding since taking a technology course in the seventh grade.Soon after she learned some things through dabbling in the web but felt that continuing would lead her down a bad path. She wanted to learn more but she felt that programming was intimidating. She set it aside, went to college, and gave up after learning Dr. Racket for an intro course (only one person in the entire ACM department understood Dr. Racket).

Once again, she set coding aside. She was afraid of getting to the point where she would come across something that took longer to understand and get left behind. She graduated, but says she felt lost and confused and also far from her career goals.

On Point for College helped her immensely. Tealye Pinet of On Point told her about Careers in Code. Before lockdown, she attended some of the conferences for programming i.e, Major League Hacking Day 2019. She started working on projects on YouTube from the last cohort, and since, says that she feels like she has gotten a handle on coding. She’s been taking her learning at a slow pace but wants an opportunity to continue learning and working with others.

Her ultimate goal is to have the opportunity to give back. She didn’t have the resources to continue learning programming at a young age. It wasn’t available at her high school until way after she graduated.She wants to contribute to creating something for the youth of Syracuse. She wants to put in the hardest work that she feels she hasn’t done yet. She says that coding is an indispensable skill that she can’t continue to shy away from.

She eventually wants to get a job as a web developer.

La’Tonia Mertica

La’Tonia Mertica (luh tone yuh merr treece) says one of the things that makes her unique is her two-word first name with unique pronunciation. She describes herself as one who is able to have an instant connection with others. She’s an exceptional communicator, is creative, and helps others express the best of themselves.

She’s currently trying to build a solid, loyal, B2B client base for her small business, La’Tonia Mertica ‘Communications & Creatives Specialist.’ In assessing where she is in life and what led her here — she is pursuing entrepreneurship with emphasis on skill-building in-house and out.

She has limited previous programming experience with HTML, CSS, TempEdit, and Drupal. Also, she has extensive previous experience with various template-based website building platforms — such as GoDaddy, Wix, and WordPress.

In addition to pursuing status as a confident, competent full stack developer specializing in visual design, La’Tonia Mertica is very interested in achieving confidence and competence in big data management.

Shah Monsoor

Shah came to the US from Afghanistan in 2015 and was formerly employed overseas. He traveled back and forth until 2018 to make ends meet, but desires a more stable commitment that’s full-time and doesn’t require that travel.He currently possesses a Bachelor’s Degree, worked as an IT manager 2019, has HR experience, and possesses a managerial certificate from LeMoyne College.

Currently, he is self-employed, working a few hours a week. Since 2018, he has tried a few different things. However, he has realized that coding and software development is the only field that he enjoys and where he can use his potential.

He believes in his strong desire to learn and continuously improve himself. He also sees himself as someone who can improve processes, operations, and teams that he is a part of. He says that these are the skills that will help him succeed as a programmer.

He has some experience programming with HTML, Open ERP, and reads coding books.

Ariel Murphy

Ariel is currently focused on her web design and marketing business after being self-taught. She has three kids and the demands of having them pre-Covid required her to be home when she could. She went into her web design business knowing she was having the best of both worlds, but after a few years she began feeling like she wasn’t living up to her full potential mentally.She was no longer challenged, and didn’t feel any excitement from the same “make it pop” clients over and over again.

After completion of Careers in Code, she wants to move in a different direction in her tech career and possibly expand her business.

Elina Nguyen

Elina is a stay at home mom due to the pandemic. Something that makes her unique is that she is very optimistic and likes to approach every situation with an open mindset.

Her programming background is very self taught primarily through CodeAcademy and YouTube. She feels that being enrolled in Careers in Code will open more opportunities in life. She says she had her first child when she was very young so she never had the opportunity to go back to school. Now that her children are older, her completion of Careers in Codem means that she can have something for herself and teach her kids that hard work and dedication pays off.

After completion of Careers in Code, she wants to get a job as a web developer.

Shantina Perez

Shantina says that she represents many women from Syracuse and cities similar to this. She was born and raised here, graduating from Corcoran High School and eventually attending Syracuse University. Because of personal and financial issues, she decided to leave during her senior year.

Eventually she found herself working different jobs and starting a family. After several years, she decided it was time to complete her degree and show her girls that anything can be accomplished. She worked hard to be accepted into the iSchool while on a full scholarship to return to SU.

She worked full time, attended a full schedule of classes, all while being a mom. There were late nights and evenings where she had to bring her girls to work with her, and she admits to shedding a few tears along the way. After two years she earned her Bachelor’s degree and even landed on the Dean’s List for her final semester! This was especially sweet as she had also welcomed her youngest child mid-semester.

She accepted a position as a Software Trainer/Analyst and grew to love her job. Over time, the company made many changes and all attempts she made to grow and change with the company were thwarted. Senior positions were eliminated and she was further saddened when they advised that they do not train for other departments.

All the while she taught fitness classes after work and says this helped to bring her so much peace. Eventually, she decided to teach Zumba full time. This was a huge step for her as she admits to experiencing severe anxiety when talking in front of groups, let alone dancing! She loves working with and helping others. With Zumba she worked for Syracuse Parks and Recreation and earned other private contracts. She experienced so much joy as she worked with children, moms, those with health issues, seniors, students and people from various backgrounds!

After a while, she began to miss her IT. She says that she feels like it’s a part of her journey that sheI never truly experienced. With a little introspection, she came to terms with the fact that she was not equipped to work in a more technical role, even entry level, after only being required to complete the basic classes for her degree. She searched for coding classes and boot camps But most were expensive or out of state.

She was elated to hear about Careers in Code on Facebook. She missed applying for the first cohort, but then completed the interest form several times for the second one in hopes that she wouldn’t miss it.

She felt that bridging this gap was even more important after losing her training position at the start of the pandemic. She also believes that Careers in Code is the foundation she needs because it will give her the opportunity she needs to gain knowledge and confidence she needs to embark on a new journey in IT and begin a new technical career.

Melaquan Saffold

Melaquan Saffold says that what makes him unique is that he is not afraid to think outside of the box to find solutions.He’s competitive and has always enjoyed new challenges. He grew up in the city of Syracuse and then attended Stony Brook University to study Education.

Since college, he has worked part-time in education as a teacher as well as full-time at Anheuser-Busch in operations.

He is looking to take on a new challenge with a new career in code which and this has always been very appealing to him. He believes that with hard work, he’ll be able to obtain a rewarding career in tech. He believes that this is the perfect time for him to learn coding and programming because he was laid off from his job due to Covid-19.

His goal is to get a job in the tech industry where can gain job experience. He recognizes there are many paths you can take in tech, and he’s started his own business. He wants to apply the skills he learns through the program to his business.

His prior experience in coding & programming includes an Introduction to Computer Science course at Stony Brook College

He feels that through his enrollment in Careers in Code, he will obtain a new career path as a developer and wants to use his new skills to build an ecommerce platform.

Jaheal Smith

Jaheal currently works as a solar installer. He took a year off of school to attend an electrical apprenticeship. He’a also has a very strong interest in renewable energy and technology. He wants to go back to school to later contribute making the components of the hardware and software more efficient.

He has a very limited knowledge in coding through his high school internships and some of his freshmen college courses.

He is excited to be a student in Careers in Code because he says he can be a part of what he sees as a great initiative to help empower women and minorities in the local Upstate New York area. In addition, he would like to accrue knowledge in this field that he feels is important and says that it will give him the edge he feels he needs before heading back to college.

His ultimate goal is to finish his college coursework and graduate.

Carolyn Ann Sprague

Carolyn believes that each person is unique and has something special and of value to contribute to the whole. She has a genuine zest for life and, as a survivor, is thankful for and cherishes each day.

Carolyn grew up in Massachusetts on the South Shore, in the family home where her father was born and raised. She married and moved to Nebraska in 1986, then relocated to the Syracuse area in 1993 to pursue a Masters degree part time and work full time in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. She currently lives in the Syracuse area with her beloved husband of 38 years Eric, son Matthew (a student at Clarkson University and participant and winner of past Hack Upstate Hackathons), and Helping Hounds Rescue dog Riley. One of her favorite things to do is sing and she enjoys the fellowship of rehearsing and performing in concerts with the Syracuse Chorale.

Carolyn has occupied a specialized niche for most of her professional career — combining her K12 education and library and information studies background and expertise — providing digital resources and services through the following Syracuse University sponsored and U.S. Department of Education grant funded projects and initiatives: ERIC (the Educational Resources Information Center), AskERIC digital question-and-answer service for teachers, and the Gateway to Educational Materials metadata catalog of K-12 education resources (GEM). She has also provided digital K-12 library and information services with not-for-profit organizations like the National Education Association (NEA). She began working from home part time for SU after her son was born in 2002, then worked remotely for the National Education Association from 2010–2015.

Carolyn comes to the Hack Upstate Careers in Code Bootcamp Cohort 2 as an energized and determined older worker — trying to return to the workforce, following almost 5 years of unemployment and being on disability. She is ready to start the next chapter in her professional life and is looking forward to acquiring skills needed to launch a new career path as a full stack web developer.

Dominique Wynn

Dominique is a Healthcare Worker working the night shift. In her spare time, she likes to draw. She saw an opportunity to learn how to code when Careers in Code, cohort 2 was announced. She makes extra money as an artist. She just created a website to showcase her artwork. She would love to learn coding techniques to push myself and her website even further.

She has read books and downloaded Coding Apps to learn how to code. She used an app for a solid month and has learned some coding concepts.

She always wanted to learn how to Code and wants to get a job as a web developer.