Online Extra: Programming for Success

Code Red Founder Michael Palmer talks start-ups and what’s next

After realizing that learning how to code could give his social-studies students at an alternative high school brighter opportunities for their futures, Michael Palmer began developing curricula for his start-up, Code Red. The program places coding education in 57 schools in the St. Louis area. Here, he shares a little bit more about what growing and expanding a start-up is like, along with his approach to education.

On start-up life:

My son was five months old, so I wasn’t sleeping anyway. We would stay up late, watching “Starscape” episodes and old “Muppets” while he was getting fed, and I would pipe out curriculum or build instructional material for teachers to integrate into their classrooms. Fast-forward to March 2012, the next school year: We ran pilot tests in area schools.

On how coding classes can revive the education system:

I’m the son of teachers; I married teachers; I’ve been in schools way too long. I think we’re at a juncture, where we say, “Well this is what it was like five to 10 years ago when we were in high school.” I look at it like, “Well, this is where we were in the 1950’s.” The US education system is one of the greatest achievements in US history—ever. One of the reasons is because we were innovative. But somewhere along the way, we really stopped being innovative. My view is that the school used to be the central hub of everything in the community…what we try to do as a company is provide needed education to students and use high-paying, high-demand jobs, like coding, to allow the community to go. If more kids in the city get jobs as developers, that increases the quality of life for everyone in the city.

We want to be someone that incorporates change in education and incorporates change in schools. We’re about providing education that allows students to garner opportunities but we also want to kind of evolve what we look at as an educational system—one that doesn’t end at age 18.

On what’s next for the company:

Code World Order is our latest big initiative. It’s a place where we can market our students for careers in tech business and bioscience jobs, but we can also market people outside of the system. What we’re looking to do is take care of people from six to 65 by giving them the proper training and skill sets they need.

We launched in January, so we’re building a talent pool right now of students, professionals, people out of college, people who have skill sets as hobbyist, people who have skills but might be at military base. What best company fits each individual? Where can the talent go?

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