Tag Archives: Design a Startup In a Day

Flipping the Script


I spent a lot of my childhood with my Grandma. I still spend a lot of time with my Grandma, but back when I was in elementary school I was with her every weekend. When I got to her house, I was always greeted with a hot meal and a seat in her lap. We talked about everything. She asked me about how school was going, what Spongebob’s latest antic was, if I was respecting my parents, everything. No matter what we ended up talking about, at some point she would say, “Dja, one day you’re gonna shine so so so bright. I can’t wait.” She was always in my corner, always fighting for me, always loving me. I’m so grateful I had the support of my family growing up, because as I got older I realized that not everyone saw the same potential in me that my grandma saw.

I went to PS 180, a small school in Harlem, for elementary and middle school. I loved it there, it was like another family. All my friends at school were from the neighborhood too so we got to hang out all the time. My school fought for us so hard, but it was difficult for our little Harlem school to get funding, so resources were limited. When it came time to apply to high schools, our assistant principal, Ms. Marren, told us about the specialized high school test, the entrance exam for the top 7 schools in the city. Ms. Marren worked so hard with us for the next few months to prepare us for the test. My parents both work in education, so they signed me up for a prep class for the specialized high school test as well. It was a tutorial program for young black students. My instructor told us that students studied for years in preparation for this test, so we had to work extra hard to make sure that we had a chance. I studied really, really hard. It upset me that some students had the advantage of years of practice. I was upset that no one thought to look at me and my friends to see if we had potential. I knew that we could blow people away, we just never had the chance to. I used that anger to push me, to motivate me to score above everyone on the test. I ended up doing pretty well on the SHSAT, at least well enough to get into my school, the High School for Math Science and Engineering.

In middle school I was surrounded by people who looked like me, talked like me, and did things the way I did things. High school was a huge culture shock. To be honest, the biggest change was all the white people. That was new, but I also noticed that I got treated a lot differently. In middle school I got asked stuff like, “Did you watch the game last night?” or “What’s gonna be on the Math test later?” In high school I got asked stuff like, “Can I touch your hair?” and “Do you live in the Bronx or Brooklyn?” No one took me seriously. There are 14 black kids in my whole grade, and I was basically the funny one that’s always dancing. All my white friends recounted their experiences interning at publishing companies and courthouses, and I was a little bitter that I had never been afforded those opportunities. It took me my first two years of high school to realize that I didn’t have access to these opportunities because I was black. I felt disrespected, excluded, but above all else I felt ready to flip the script.

At the end of my sophomore year I started looking for summer programs beyond the usual park cleanup job. A couple of days later my mom told me about this new program called All Star Code that taught young black boys how to code.  She said that All Star Code was holding a workshop that weekend and that I should go. I realllyyyy did not wanna spend my Saturday hacking away on my laptop in some dark room, and I fought against my mom’s wishes, but she was not having it. Guess who won. I woke up early that Saturday and took the train down to General Assembly for All Star Code’s second “Design a Startup in a Day” workshop. Honestly one of the best Saturdays of my life. When All Star Code launched their application, I filled it out as fast as I could.

When we started new topics in All Star Code, we didn’t get long boring lectures. We got cheat-sheets for the syntax of a new skill and we just jumped in. We learned by doing, which I think was a lot more effective than watching our instructors, Jonathan and Paul type a bunch of loops into their laptops. It was so weird because learning at ASC was so much fun and way different than school. Jonathan and Paul looked at us and saw beyond what society expected us to become. They didn’t see future garbagemen and criminals. They saw CEOs and innovators. They believed that each and every one of us had the potential to change the world, and they worked hard so that we have the tools that we needed to do so.

I want you guys to close your eyes and picture something for me. Imagine what the workforce would need to look like for All Star Code to not have to exist anymore. Keep your eyes closed. If all of you worked in tech, I think that about 25% of this room should be black. That means that 1 in every 4 people that you look at should be black for All Star Code to not be necessary. Open your eyes. That’s why ASC needs to exist and that’s why we need more ASC’s.

I left All Star Code more confident and optimistic than I had ever been my whole life. I kept coding outside of class and I started attending hackathons at colleges across the country. At first I was really intimidated by all these elite college students, but hackathons are super inclusive and collaborative, so I fit right in. We call this the hacker ethos. I honed my skills all year and by the time summer came again I was pretty proud of how far I came. I was starting to see my own potential.

When ASC announced that they were looking for ASC alum to be teaching fellows for the next cohort, I signed up right away. All Star Code did so much for me, and I wanted to give back and help out in any way I could.

This fall I filled out another application, this time for Stanford University. Stanford is right in the heart of Silicon Valley, and it’s a place where I can get a solid tech education without sacrificing my other interests. Two years ago, I never would’ve even considered applying to Stanford, because I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough to think that I could get it. Now, I won’t jinx it, but I think my chances are pretty good. All Star Code gave me the confidence to look inside myself and realize that I’m capable of doing whatever I put my mind to. No other learning environment has taught me as much as ASC did, which is why we need more programs like it. If I had classes at school that were taught ASC style, we’d be pumping out Bill Gates-es nonstop! We have to rethink the way we educate kids in America, because when kids like me discover their potential, that’s when we realize that we can change the world.

My First Design A Startup In A Day

6:30 a.m. came bright and early when I took the F train from Brooklyn into Manhattan last Saturday. But having joined All Star Code a mere month ago, this was my first chance to see the team in action at our Design a Startup in a Day workshop at General Assembly, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

More than 20 high schoolers joined us to learn about designing a startup. After a round of icebreakers to wake everyone up, we cemented the teams and the mission was revealed: Design a startup – creating a brand, a marketing strategy, a wire frame, and a landing page for your company’s website – and present it in less than 7 hours. No small feat for the teams of five high schoolers each!

The All Stars were lucky to have a talented group of tech mentors present, as well as three All Star alums – Djassi, Devon, and Nikolas – to guide them through the process. Max Weinbrown taught the All Stars the basics of coding to help with their landing pages, and Shiloh Goodin gave them tips about how to wow VCs with their presentation skills. Walking around the room on social media duty, I heard so many creative ideas as the All Stars worked together to solidify their startups. As the day went on, the energy of the teams grew and the excitement in the room was palpable.

5 p.m. came quickly, as parents joined ASC staff, volunteers, and mentors to watch the presentations. With the sounds of Millions March NYC rising up from Broadway, each team presented their startups, ranging from a music sharing app to a solution for finding colleges and internships that match your specific skills. While everyone had amazing ideas, there had to be a winning team in the end. The judges, including All Star Djassi Julien, deliberated and named Safe Space, an app and website to support victims of sexual violence, as the winners of the competition!

I left my first All Star Code workshop feeling even more excited about becoming a part of this organization. I saw our mission come to life in the creativity and passion of these bright young men, who will be the next generation of computer science students, programmers, and tech entrepreneurs.

The day was also bittersweet for the ASC team as it was the last workshop with our Program Manager extraordinaire David Noel. But what a way to go out! The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, thanks in large part to David.

Check out what the day looked like from my perspective in the Design a Startup in a Day Storify, and join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!


Design A Startup In A Day Takes Over Google!


On Saturday, November 1st, we held our first Design a Startup in a Day workshop of the season at Google. After some enthusiastic icebreakers and random selection of group CEOs, the students jumped right in to designing their own music-themed startups.

With intensive group discussion, mentor panels, and wireframing under their belts, the students ended the day presenting some of the apps they had created to their families and mentors. The judges and audience alike were impressed by the students’ creativity and attention to detail.

01 02

After the workshop, more than 75% of the participants shared that they were satisfied with the overall Design a Start Up in a Day event.

After the workshop, more than 75% of the participants shared that they are interested in applying to attend All Star Code’s 2015 six-week Summer Intensive.


One student shared: “My favorite part of today’s program was how much teamwork was put into the presentations.”



For more photos from the workshop, visit the gallery page on our website HERE.

We look forward to our second Design a Startup in a Day workshop of the season, held at General Assembly onDecember 13th.


The Young Hackers, an organization started by two of our All Star Code alumni (Mamadou Diallo and Austin Carvey), have kept busy and are continuing their outreach and engagement in the tech space. Most recently, they partnered with Monthly Music Hackathon and held an event at Spotify on November 1st. Some of their ongoing projects include: helping StudentRND organize CodeDayNYC and helping to organize a Local Hack Day event with Major League Hacking for December. We are proud of what they have accomplished thus far and look forward to providing continuous support and hearing further updates about their work.


“The New York woman inspiring young men from minority backgrounds to code.” Check out a brand new feature on Christina and All Star Code at Nature.com.


Have you checked out the new All Star Code blog? This week’s entry, The All Star Code Impact, comes from our Director of Marketing & Events, Michael Schwartz.

Michael Schwartz


Meet our new Development Manager, Christina Licata!

Christina Licata

Christina developed a passion for connecting people with nonprofits while working and volunteering at various educational organizations in NYC. Taking her work from the ESL classroom to the front lines of philanthropy, Christina has raised awareness and financial support for educational and athletic causes for over six years. After transplanting to Brooklyn from Tempe, Arizona, Christina co-founded the New York Lady Magpies Australian football team and currently serves as the head coach. She is so excited to be joining the team at All Star Code.

In other news, congratulations to our founder Christina Lewis Halpern and her husband Dan Halpern on the birth of their daughter, Sasha! Everyone is happy and healthy.


We want to give a shout out to the following organizations who have supported our Summer Intensive student’s continued engagement with technology:

Ruby On Rails, One Month Swift, Treehouse, MakeGamesWithUs, Cracking The Coding Interview, Dev Bootcamp, Codiqa, and Twilio.

The All Star Code Impact

In September of last year, a chance meeting with Christina Lewis Halpern changed my life. Christina was just about to publicly launch All Star Code.  She was looking for someone to help run her new non-profit’s first event, to be held at Spotify’s headquarters a week later. In talking with her, I felt inspired by her passion, chutzpah, and big picture thinking. So, I dove in.

We met every day that week leading up to the event. And upon successfully wrapping All Star Code’s first workshop, she casually said to me with a smile, “You’re coming back Monday, right?”

I wasn’t lying about the chutzpah.

Of course I came back the following Monday. And here I am now – 4 workshops, 2 fundraisers, 1 benefit, 6 Summer Intensive weeks and 14 months of Mondays later.

In just one year, All Star Code has worked with more than 100 students from 8 different states and 56 different schools. We’ve recruited top industry professionals as teachers and mentors, and built a program that is so unique, so impactful, and so timely that I constantly find myself talking about the kinds of future leaders our All Stars are destined to become.

As the Director of Marketing and Events, I am highly attuned to the narratives that weave in and out of All Star Code. I often tell friends stories about the All Star student who shadowed me when I photographed a website building workshop. He then built an incredible website not only to showcase his own photography, but to get hired out as an event photographer himself. Or I speak of the two All Stars who created an interactive game that was such a hit at our Summer Benefit in July that the head of a museum invited them to showcase it at HIS event. More recently, I tell everyone about the All Star who came into the Summer Intensive with no prior coding experience, only to build a company with his cohorts that hosted a better-attended hackathon than our own. Christina’s chutzpah is clearly contagious.

Christina often tells anyone involved with All Star Code to “live the mission.” For me, that includes helping build an ecosystem of education and access for our All Stars, through both professional and personal resources.

When we were looking at different tech companies to host field trips for the Summer Intensive, I called my brother’s girlfriend, who works at LinkedIn.  I asked her to help me plan a day-long workshop that included student pitch sessions, profile building, and a hike to the top of the Empire State Building (where LinkedIn’s New York offices are headquartered). When we hosted a fundraiser in my hometown of San Francisco, I called upon a high school friend and winery owner to donate cases of wine to the event. When we needed assistant event managers at the Summer Benefit, I called upon three colleagues who had assisted me previously on other non-profit events. And when one of their boyfriends, a computer programmer, found out about her involvement with All Star Code, he rang me up the next day with a mixture of excitement and jealousy and asked how he too could get involved. And so he became a mentor at our last Design A Startup In A Day workshop hosted by Google. I live the mission by recruiting talent and building out our ecosystem because I believe in these boys and their potential to change the world.

Our ecosystem is expanding every day. If you are reading this now, then you are already a part of it. So I ask you, how will YOU live the mission? Will you volunteer or mentor at a workshop? Will you co-host a fundraiser? Or will you do something as easy as share our newsworthy updates on social media? All such efforts carry our movement forward.  We are all committed to changing the lives of our All Stars. What may surprise you is that because of your involvement with All Star Code, your life could very easily change as well.

Michael Schwartz & All Star Coders at Google Workshop

Tips For Applying To All Star Code Workshops

Dear Potential All Stars,

All Star Code’s Design a Start Up in a Day (DSUD) application deadline is Friday, October 17th at 11:59 pm. If you haven’t applied already, that’s tomorrow! Before you make your way to our application page, I want to catch you up on our recent programming, and provide you with some tips on what makes a great application as well.

Since our DSUD application went live on September 22nd, All Star Code has been actively getting the word out through school site visits and our partner organizations. Traveling around NYC and meeting different students has been awesome. It’s always nice to match a face to the application. Students often come prepped with a host of questions about our application process and what they can do to make their application stand out. Below are a couple of answers to frequently asked questions concerning our Design a Start Up in a Day workshop and application process.

DSUD Workshop Questions

1. If accepted, can I attend both workshops?
Each accepted student can only attend one workshop, but you can specify on your application if you have a preferred date that you’d like to attend. Looking ahead, accepted Design a Start Up in a Day participants will ALSO be invited to our World of Coding workshop in early February, 2015. So no worries, there will be more opportunities to participate in All Star Code’s programming.

2. How many students will you be accepting?
Each workshop will hold 30 students, so 60 students in total.’

3. Who will be instructing us? Will I have help?
Kane Sarhan, Co-Founder of Enstitute, will be leading our workshop. Kane is great. And a host of tech professionals will act as mentors to help your start up come to life.

4. Will there be food at the workshop?
The answer to this question is one big resounding YES! You and I both will be looking forward to it.

DSUD Application Questions

1. If I don’t have a laptop, will that hurt my chances of getting in?
No, not at all. We only ask to get a sense of how many laptops we will have to provide for each workshop. Asking upfront helps us plan in advance. Preparation is key.

2. I don’t know how to code. Should I apply?
Absolutely! We want to help build a bridge to tech for students who may never have had the opportunity before. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Take a shot. Start with All Star Code.

3. How can I make my application stand out? What are you looking for?
We are looking for highly motivated students who are interested in technology. Since we can’t take the time to meet with every student, our application serves as a way to get to know you a little better. Write thoroughly and don’t be afraid to share your dreams with us.

Looking forward to seeing those applications. Apply Now!

David Noel Jr.
Program Coordinator
All Star Code

IMG_3998 - Version 3

ASC Fall ’14 Workshop Announcement


After two successful workshops last Fall, All Star Code’s Design a Startup in a Day returns with a November workshop at Google and a December workshop at General Assembly! Applications are now LIVE on our website. We’re excited to share another fun-filled, educational experience with a new group of high school aged young men of color, and we look forward to reuniting with some familiar faces and hosting several new friends from our ASC ecosystem. Here are three ways in which you can help us get the word out:

  • Forward this e-mail to anyone you think may be interested
  • Share the news on social media #AllStarCode
  • Request a printed flyer to post in your school, office, or community

Design a Start Up Flyer


The 2014 Summer Intensive was a great success. The data from our post-Intensive surveys only confirms the great impact ASC had on the first cohort of students.

– 100% of All Star Coders self-identified as “hackers” by summer’s end
– 95% of ASC alums say they are now strongly considering a career in Computer Science
– The number of languages All Star Coders reported being exposed to and using grew from 9 to 20 by program’s end

As Luis Dominguez, 2014 All Star Coder, shared, “I would have been much more reluctant to pursue tech if I hadn’t done All Star Code. ASC has brightened my opportunities for the future.”

All Star Code


A key component to ASC’s programming is producing students who go on to create their own business models and projects. Two of our All Stars, Austin and Mamadou, have already launched The Young Hackers: an organization dedicated to connecting and empowering young hackers everywhere. Organizations such as Code Day, DroidCon, Teen Tech, and Stony Brook’s Unhackathon have already approached them for assistance. Congrats All Stars!

The Young Hackers


Code.Org Student of the WeekAnother one of our All Stars has been featured as code.org’s Student of the Week! Djassi Julien is the second ASC student to be featured by code.org. Check out his full article HERE.


d42ab48e-8556-416c-9e07-6dab5b061e1aLooking back: On September 11th, All Star Code’s Founder and President, Christina Lewis Halpern, participated as a panelist in The Atlantic’s Technologies in Education forum in Washington, DC. The panel discussion centered around preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. The panel included Tracy Gray, Managing Researcher at the American Institutes for Research, Kwame Simmons, Principal of Kramer Middle School, and Anne Wintroub, Director of Sustainability and Citizenship for AT&T.

d72eaa94-ab39-46b5-9d02-990e7428d4a6Looking ahead: All Star Code is proud to be a community partner at Digital Undivided’s Focus100, “the most diverse tech conference on the planet”. Come swing by our table next month and say Hello! On October 4th, ASC Founder and President Christina Lewis Halpern will also be one of four judges at the 11 am FOCUS Fellow PITCH Session. You can check out the full Focus100 schedule HERE.


129ff1f5-4329-4f68-a0b0-71032540edcaChristina was recently interviewed by The Feast about All Star Code’s partnership with GLG. Check out the full interview HERE.


ec2e3c7a-075d-4cab-8cdf-88d2f9bf1cb5From our first workshop to our latest fundraiser, enjoy the brand new Photo Galleries on our website.


Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to All Star Code, and support the next generation of tech pioneers! Visit our DONATION page for more info.