Juliet Eyraud ’16 Offers Coding Class to Refugees

This semester, senior Juliet Eyraud has been traveling to Portland once a week to teach an introductory computer programming class for English language learners.

Eyraud’s class, which she designed during an independent study last spring, is the first coding course ever offered by Portland Adult Education. Like a good number of the students at the continuing-education school, many of Eyraud’s students are asylum seekers and refugees from central and eastern Africa. A few arrived in the US just under a year ago.

Eyraud, a computer science and education double major at Bowdoin, said she wanted to offer the course to give people an entry to the tech field. While many IT positions demand coding skills, often they do not require degrees or certifications. For refugees, some of whom already have degrees and years of experience in a career they had to give up when they came here, this ease of access into a potentially stable career is appealing. “In that sense [tech] is an inclusive industry,” Eyraud said.

Eyraud, who grew up in Lexington, Mass., became interested in English acquisition and language learning while in high school, and when she was a teenager, she earned a TOEFL to teach English. Ever since her first year at Bowdoin, she has been tutored English at Portland Adult Education.

Eyraud discovered computer science her first year at Bowdoin, deciding to major in it after taking just two courses. When she finishes her college studies in December, she plans to work in Portland. Outside of work hours, she will continue to offer an introductory programming course.

Further along in her career, Eyraud said she wants to develop software that can aid the settlement process for refugees to the US. And she’d like “to be in a position to improve accessibility for computer science education, so it is an even more inclusive field, geared toward people of color and women.” She explained that she believes all types of people should be part of the development of technology so that it can benefit many different communities.

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