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MAKING THE FUTURE—Program Director Debralyn Woodberry-Shaw helps with 19-year-old Lemuel Jackson’s cell phone app as Economic Development Manager Jomari Peterson looks on. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

MAKING THE FUTURE—Program Director Debralyn Woodberry-Shaw helps with 19-year-old Lemuel Jackson’s cell phone app as Economic Development Manager Jomari Peterson looks on. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Dennis Holmes, a sophomore at Westinghouse High School, is writing a program for a computer adventure game.

“It’s called, ‘Choose Your Own Adventure.’ This function is for the box that asks if you want to pick up the torch. This controls the color and where it appears on the screen,” he said.

Two years ago, he didn’t know anything about writing computer code. Now he is tutoring other teens in JavaScript. And it is all due to the Maker’s Place.

Maker’s Place is an Entrepreneurial, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math program and is an outgrowth of the Oasis Project, which started as an after-school program of Bible Center Church.

It is housed in a triplex on Fleury Way in Homewood that used to be a crack house and is the only building standing between Homewood Avenue and Sterrett Street—a true oasis. The church purchased and renovated it in 2005 and is working to develop the community by developing the talent and drive of its youth.

“Education is the core of what we do,” said Rev. John Wallace, senior pastor at Bible Center Church and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. “Part of that is instilling the idea that they can be producers, not just consumers. And much of that is just exposure.”

An example of that: Westinghouse senior Lemuel Jackson, who before he knew anything about coding still knew applications for smart phones were cool—designed an alarm clock app.

“Right now, it only has one sound,” he said. “So, I’ll have to add more.”

Maker’s Place is adding more too, said Program Manager Debralyn Woodberry-Shaw. It’s the entrepreneurial piece. Currently the 13 students who attend every Friday after school not only learn HTNL and JavaScript coding, but they learn about making things people will buy.

They learn business basic by playing a game called “Payday.” Previous groups have made and sold everything from Lip balms and candles to jean outfits and web portfolios.

“Soon we’ll be starting on a project that will culminate in June with a product related to community health,” she said. “We’ll see what it is.”

Woodberry-Shaw said she wants to increase attendance up the maximum capacity of 30 and is continually recruiting students from neighborhood groups and associations. Most of the current class comes from Westinghouse, the Church and the Homewood community, but there are also students from CAPA and Pittsburgh Montessori.

There is also a Maker’s Clubhouse afterschool program for elementary school students a Pittsburgh Faison, aimed at spurring interest in ESTEAM disciplines in even younger students.

“The idea is to have this continuum of learning and creating so that when they are done there, they come here,” she said. “There is a makers movement taking root across the country as a way to build Black lives and communities. To get people thinking, someone has to make this—why not me?”

Woodberry-Shaw also markets Maker’s Place JavaScript coding expertise to other agencies, community groups during the summer. Prices depend on the number of students interested and lessons required.

On Jan. 23, the students’ first day back after holiday break, they learned of another entrepreneurial effort Oasis is starting up with the help of Assistant Prof. of Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Odette Smith-Ransom: healthy Soul Food, which they will sell through the Oasis Project store and even online at the http://www.themakers­place.org website.

For more information contact Woodberry-Scott at 412-242-4920.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)


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