Meet Jewish Person of the Week Brianne Caplan
Meet Brianne Caplan, Executive Director and Founder of Code Your Dreams. When COVID-19 hit, Brianne Caplan sprang into action and work to transition all programming from in-person to virtual. The curriculum development team built an extensive library of on-demand videos alongside our curriculum so that students would have both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities.
Our entire team dedicated hours of each day to researching, attending trainings and brainstorming how we can best support and engage our students in this new virtual environment. But honestly, we continue to learn every day. For example, at first we asked ourselves, “How do we embed social-emotional learning in a virtual environment?” Now we ask ourselves, “How can we even better embed social-emotional learning in a virtual environment?” It’s one of my favorite mantras that “teachers must be learners” and that couldn’t be more true for myself than during the pandemic.Brianne Caplan, Executive Director and Founder of Code Your Dreams
Where did you grow up?
What did you do Jewish growing up?
My favorite Jewish activity growing up was teaching Kindergarten and Third Grade classes at my Synagogue, which is where I first discovered the magic of teaching.
What do you do Jewish now?
I bake challah almost every Friday (or Thursday night). I love baking interesting and unique recipes. I usually bake one that is savory and one that is sweet. I try to not work on Shabbat and I love having Shabbat dinners with friends and family.
Where did you go to school?
University of Chicago
What do you do for fun/to relax?
I love being outdoors, traveling, and going on adventures. Hiking, skiing, snorkeling – these are all my favorite types of vacations! To relax, I enjoy cuddling with my dog Piper and reading, watching a movie, or listening to a podcast.
Favorite takeout spot during the Pandemic?
Best virtual resource for people working from home?
Mural (http://mural.co/) is great for virtual group brainstorming and ideation activities.
In non-pandemic times…What is your favorite Jewish Chicago event?
Shabbat dinners with OneTable
How do you stay motivated during the Pandemic?
My students keep me motivated. With more and more problems facing our world, our Code Your Dreams students are stepping up as pillars of change for our communities. Our world sector needs the diverse pipeline of these future tech leaders, innovators and disruptors now more than ever.
What do you for work?
I’m the Executive Director and Founder of Code Your Dreams. We’re a nonprofit with the mission of enabling the next generation of innovators and disruptors by empowering disadvantaged youth to solve their community’s problems through code. I am also the CEO and Founder at CoderHeroes, co-Founder at Code Elevate and Program Director for Careers in Computer Science at the University of Chicago.
Knowing the transformative potential of this program, I’ve been working to serve as many disadvantaged students as possible ever since. With COVID-19, the digital divide has become extremely apparent. Classes and after-school programs moved online. Without a computer and internet, too many students have been left out of their education. This Summer, Code Your Dreams stepped up to provide students at home with the technology to continue joining our programs online. More than just our programs, this gave students access to their school’s e-learning during the day.
What inspired you to found Code Your Dreams?
Simply put, the coding education gap needs to be disrupted. My mission is to give every child the confidence that coding is “for them,” regardless of gender, race, financial status or otherwise.
When I was working as a Data Scientist, I started teaching coding to young people in my free time. My students didn’t have the same resources and support that other students have. Many didn’t have internet or computers at home. Many didn’t have science teachers at their schools. None of my students had access to computer science at all.
But with code, so many of my students discovered their purpose and their passion. They were able to build real solutions to everyday problems. Their confidence soared. They started seeing pathways open up for them that they never knew existed.
Knowing the transformative potential of this program, I’ve been working to serve as many disadvantaged students as possible ever since.
What challenges have you had to overcome that other female colleagues struggle with?
For a long time, I struggled with imposter syndrome. I felt like my technical abilities were lackluster in comparison to others. Over time, I learned to be confident in myself and my unique qualities as a holistic person. We’re all at different points in our journeys and I learned to be happy with where I am.
Also, for a long time, I was shy to share my thoughts and ideas. At times, I was the only woman in a room filled with men and I felt intimated. Over time, I forced myself to take up space and let my voice be heard. Now, it’s become a practice that I speak up for myself and for the people and issues that I care deeply about. It’s cliché, but it was becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.
How was running an organization been uniquely challenging during the pandemic?
With COVID-19, the digital divide has become extremely apparent. Classes and after-school programs moved online. Without a computer and internet, too many students have been left out of their education. This Summer, Code Your Dreams stepped up to provide students at home with the technology to continue joining our programs online. More than just our programs, this gave students access to their school’s e-learning during the day.
With these conditions, we saw our budget needs really soar during the pandemic. As a result, I started CoderHeroes, a startup where its buy-one-give-one model means that families who pay for classes are helping to fund programs for Code Your Dreams students in underserved neighborhoods.
When the Tribe Gathers… You won’t leave with an empty stomach!
Learn more about Code Your Dreams
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/codeyourdreams
Learn more and connect with Brianne