Bryant is a business administration major at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss., but she is currently taking a break from her collegiate studies to complete the coding academy.
Classes for the Mississippi Coding Academies began in October 2017. Jackson native Herbert Brown, who is the instructor for the program, came on board after local pastor Ronnie Crudup Jr. recommended him for the position in June 2017.
The program, which is at Innovate's "innovation hub" in downtown Jackson, is tuition-free, and includes books and a laptop for the coders. Rather than serving as an introduction to just computer coding, the course is designed to make students competitive candidates in the job market after completing the course.
"Our main goal with the academy is to cultivate and educate industry level coders," Brown says. "We want our students to be versatile and ready to adapt any working environment and style, so whether they decide to pursue a career in the corporate sector or go the startup route, they will be prepared. Ideally they will be marketable and employable after the end of the 11 months."
Bryant says her favorite part of the program has been designing websites.
"I plan to teach the other youth at the church the things I'm learning," she says.
She also likes Startup Wednesdays, where different business owners in the area come in and speak with the students about starting businesses.
Jackson restaurateur Jeff Good was one of her favorite presenters.
"He really inspired me with my business," she says. The one piece of advice she took from him was to get a business partner. Now, she has one, D'Ebonie Johnson. The two sell treats such as chocolate-covered strawberries and popcorn in their business, Qandy Qoated.
On her future plans, Bryant says: "I know I would like to pursue a career in coding, but I also would like to do some fun freelance work on the side and assist teaching kids coding. I think that coding is a useful skill to have, and it can be applied in a lot of ways."
Brown sees the Coding Academies as an opportunity for Mississippi to lead in something positive and progressive, and that the continued pursuit of technological advancement is critical in helping to change the narrative of the state.
"Having a resource like this in place for students in Jackson Public Schools and the surrounding areas is a powerful move and a step in the right direction," Brown says. "It's a great thing for those on the outside looking in to see."
With the expansion of robotics into job duties that once required a human operator, the concern of technology democracy has become a popular topic of debate. However, Brown says coding provides a way for humans to evolve with the world around robots.
"The question of tech democracy has been asked since the beginning of time," he says. "Every time an advancement comes, people begin to question what will happen to the predecessor. Technology will always move forward, and it doesn't make sense to hold on to older models. Instead we should keep up with progress and adapt. We should be learning how to communicate with machines rather than fearing them because they are the future. Also, by teaching the most disenfranchised people these skills, it will help to elevate everyone."
Classes will conclude in September 2018. For more information on the Mississippi Coding Academies, visit mscoding.org or innovate.ms.