Code Heroes: How One Small Town is Embracing Digital Literacy

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Just 50,000 strong, Cornwall is a small manufacturing town in eastern Ontario, cradling the St. Lawrence river at Canada’s southern edge. Its small streets are peppered with a mix of history and innovation, tight-knit community and country-wide impact; Cornwall is home to both historical remnants of Canada’s early years and some of the country’s largest manufacturing and supply chain management centres.

One Cornwall resident, Kelly Bergeron, has made it her mission to ensure that Cornwall is keeping pace with the ever-moving tech world. Inspired by Ladies Learning Code and their code:mobile, Kelly launched Code Heroes, a program that brings engaging events and technology classes to Cornwall. “It seemed to me that there was a huge gap in digital literacy training opportunities here,” says Kelly. “I honestly felt that the youth here were in danger of falling behind.” Now Kelly and her Code Heroes team teach digital literacy, coding, graphic design, game design, digital marketing, and more, to youth and people of all ages in Cornwall.

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Photo: Kelly Bergeron

But though Kelly serves the local community, her horizons are far broader than Cornwall or even Canada. She is determined to bring the global stage to Cornwall through Code Heroes events. Their latest hackathon, Hack to the Future (which I had the pleasure of being a part of), brought together an international panel of tech professionals from San Francisco, Toronto, and Dublin.

“What I’d love to see the community do is to ensure that every child gets a chance to learn to code, to at least see if they like it,” says Kelly. “So many tools these days make it so easy and fun that I can’t see why we can’t at least get every child in this region to try it out.” At Hack to the Future, eleven teams were tasked with creating apps to address global problems like hunger, poverty, education, and pollution. I’ve been to a lot of hackathons in my day, but never have I seen young minds – some as young as 8 years old! – using engagement tactics like gamification to address the problems on a local and global scale.

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Photo: Justin Towndale, Cornwall City Councillor

With Code Heroes, Kelly and her team are embracing the global digital transformation and giving Cornwall a place on the big stage alongside the bigger cities who are traditionally better served with these opportunities. This is a growing movement, and those who want to support and get involved can work with Code Heroes to provide support in a myriad of ways. “We’re always looking for partners for events such as our hackathons, speakers for our events, funding for travel, equipment, marketing and personnel to help us teach the curriculum,” says Kelly – partners enable Code Heroes to reach bigger audiences and bring the broader Canadian community together into the digital age. “We’re going to keep on getting into the different schools and teaching our program and watch as our youth get empowered by tech. I feel like we’re onto something here and because of amazing collaborators and partners, we’re only just getting started.”

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Hero image credit: the Standard-Freeholder

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