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Meet our #CodeintheCommunity Volunteers – Valerie Lee: “There is no one right way”

July 27, 2022

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It takes a village to democratise digital literacy. Code in the Community – large-scale free coding programme for disadvantaged kids – is only possible because of a community of volunteers from all walks of life who give their time and talent to teach kids from under-privileged backgrounds about the world of code.

Get to know some of ’em in this series – we hope their stories inspire you as much as they inspire us.

Could you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Valerie. I’m a graduating Information Systems student from Singapore Management University (SMU) and a volunteer at Code in the Community (CITC)!

What was your experience in school like?

My experience at SMU was enriching as SMU doesn’t only focus on education, they also encourage us to seek global exposure, career development, internship, and community service. 

In my time at SMU, I made new friends, worked on different projects (including real-world projects), attended career development workshops, completed two internships and did at least eighty hours of community service. I got to take away lots of valuable knowledge and exposure that’s shaping my capabilities. 

What got you interested in education for kids?

During my second semester in polytechnic, I took a compulsory module called Computer Programming for Problem Solving – this was my first encounter with programming.

I enjoyed it, but also wished that I’d been exposed to programming at a younger age. So, I thought that it would be good if I could introduce it to kids. Who knows, they might like it too! 

What led you to Code in the Community?

I found Code in the Community while searching online for volunteer work related to programming, and decided to give it a try! After submitting my Scratch project as part of the application and going through volunteer training, I was assigned a class. But just as I was all ready and excited to kick start my volunteering journey, COVID-19 hit and CITC classes were cancelled. But thankfully, CITC quickly pivoted and shifted online soon after. 

How has your experience been so far?

To date, I’ve completed three cycles of Code in the Community and it’s been great!

My first run was definitely nerve-racking as it was my first time being an instructor, but the training provided helped to prepare me for the role.

Because classes were conducted online, it can be challenging to ensure that all the students are engaged because I can’t see their screens. So I need to check in on them regularly to make sure they’re keeping up.

After they get more comfortable, the class can be quite interactive, and I really like it. It makes me happy when they ask questions or share other methods that they have found – I always emphasize that there is no one right way to do something and this shows that they are exploring and learning at the same time. 

Despite the convenience of online classes, I want to experience conducting a physical class one day so that I get to see them face-to-face. 

What do you hope for your CITC kids?

I hope that through programming, my CITC kids can pick up problem-solving skills, build resilience, and develop creativity because coding is full of challenges. It teaches them to look at the problems from different perspectives and to use their creativity to come up with different possible solutions. 

That being said, I also hope that they can tune into a growth mindset because it gives them the power to believe that their abilities can be developed or improved through dedication and hard work. But they will have to understand that effort does not equal outcome and the outcome might not always be what they wanted or expected. That’s to say: instead of focusing only on the outcome, it’s important to also focus on the process and enjoy the learning journey.

What would you like to say to future CITC volunteers?

Join us and you will have a blast! CITC is not only a good opportunity for kids to be exposed and gain hands-on experience with programming, it is also a great opportunity for yourself to pick up new skills or build upon the ones that you already have. So don’t worry if you have no programming background or already have experience in programming. Just be yourself, enjoy the process and remember you can make a difference.

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