Innovation Story

I’m a coder: ShuDon Brown


ShuDon Brown: A degree at 16

Meet ShuDon Brown, an ambitious student and IBM intern, who completed her high school diploma and associate degree at the age of 16 as a participant in a new school model called P-TECH in Brooklyn, New York. The innovative education model pioneered by IBM in partnership with educators blends classroom learning with workplace experiences, preparing students for college and STEM careers in competitive industries.

While in this program, she discovered the power of technology and its ability to connect people, change lives, and help others.

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The Challenge

Different expectations, different motivations

Although P-TECH classrooms might look like traditional high schools, from the moment ShuDon arrived, she realized the expectations were different. At P-TECH schools, students can earn a high school diploma and an associate degree in STEM in six years or less. But it’s not easy.

ShuDon’s family always encouraged her to pursue her love of math and science even when social pressures at school made her feel embarrassed about liking these subjects.

A motivating atmosphere is what drew ShuDon and her mother to the P-TECH program. The program encourages students from underserved communities to enter STEM fields and provides support to help tackle the more rigorous college courses. Students also have access to mentorships and paid internships.

ShuDon says that through this guidance she learned a valuable lesson: It’s better to speak up and ask questions when you don’t understand something than to fail.

With the help of her very proud mom, ShuDon realized her dream of going to school at William Peace University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Solution

Using coding to build dreams

From the first time she saw the code that is returned in a Google search, ShuDon knew that she could code. Her internship at IBM helped spark her passion for coding. She began to learn SQL, worked with Arduino, and enjoyed looking at the engineering side of things.

One of ShuDon’s favorite courses was her coding class where the students had to design a website that explained who they were. She said that most of her male classmates made pages with plain, dull backgrounds, but she took a more colorful approach. Even though the male students laughed, she thought it looked great and knew that someone would find it appealing.

After she learned to create her own website, ShuDon decided to help her mother realize her own dream of owning a daycare center. So she built a website and companion app for her mother’s business using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery.

I think through coding that I get to embrace my creativity a lot more and just be open to new ideas.

ShuDon Brown

The Future

Mentoring the next generation

ShuDon graduated with honors from the P-TECH program and will graduate from William Peace University with a degree in business analytics.

One thing she plans to do is to pass on her experience to others. Beginning with her sisters, she wants to pass along the same encouragement that she received as part of the P-TECH program to other young women. ShuDon wants to share her thoughts on what it was like to go from high school into a technology internship and working environment, her views on women in technology, what she gained in her internship at IBM, and advice for girls who want to code.

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