Executive Director Sarah Tuakli Cooper

Whew! 2020 is done – congratulations and Happy New Year! 

We made it through the strangest year in our lifetimes and The League not only survived but, in retrospect, we actually had some big wins. Of course, the first thing to be grateful for was that among our immediate staff and volunteer base, no-one suffered long lasting COVID effects and we are all still glued to our Zoom screens plugging away. Being forced into an online classroom model, which we did in a record 48 hours, gave us an opportunity to rethink several aspects of the course delivery. Online access, curriculum development, scheduling, and parent communication got a much needed injection of energy, setting a new standard for our models of continuous improvement. Student progress was amazing, with many students tearing through the curriculum and swelling the ranks of our upper levels.

Our online platforming also made it possible for teachers, volunteers and students to join and contribute to the school from any physical location. We already have a great deal of San Diego covered, from Logan Heights up to San Marcos; but this opens the doors to a much wider potential community of students coding across the land!

Our biggest win – I can’t believe I am writing this – was our Giving Tuesday campaign which raised an astonishing $77,028. This is almost 10x what we raised last year, from 10x the number of donors. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity and faith in us. Your support means we can impact more students in a deeper way, providing a pathway into the workforce for under-resourced and underrepresented kids that might have previously been unimaginable.

I won’t pretend it has all been easy. Operating under crisis conditions is stressful enough in the short term, and let’s face it, we are not out of the woods yet. Our plans to roll-out limited in-person classes keep changing as we learn more about what mitigation steps can support re-opening our classrooms, and being pushed out as the virus spread intensifies. We are missing each other and looking forward to being back in our group classes as soon as it becomes feasible. 

Of course, there was a very obvious casualty of the pandemic – we initially lost 60% of our scholarship students, most of whom struggle with digital equity challenges. Thanks to our generous donors, we have been able to put steps in place to fund more devices and support systems to help ensure a more level playing field for students from under-resourced populations. As part of this drive for inclusion, we appointed two Fostering Inclusion Fellows under the Americorps program, DaniRose Hill and Genesis Ocasio, who have so far exceeded our expectations and created wonderful new avenues for student activity and engagement. 

I have spent 2020 taking advantage of the ability to participate more fully in some fantastic communities in San Diego. The San Diego STEM EcoSystem, The San Diego Promise Zone Community, Hoover Community Connections and other community partners became less like professional connections and more like family as we all helped each other to grapple with the challenges of COVID-19, digital inequity and social upheaval. The bonds the League has forged with partners this year lead me to embrace the possibilities in 2021 with optimism and fortitude, in spite of the terrifying scenes we have been witnessing for the first couple of weeks. Let’s get through this bit, then get our heads down and focus on building the future we want to live in.

Wishing you and your families all the best for 2021. Stay safe and keep coding.

Sarah Tuakli Cooper

Executive Director, The League of Amazing Programmers