St. Andrew’s seniors close out their time as Upper School students with two weeks of service learning. For Danan Mbozi, these two weeks are the continuation of multi-year commitment he made to bring quality computer programming education to students at Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys in Washington, D.C.
Mbozi ’18 said he wanted to combine his interests in technology and working with children to meet St. Andrew’s community service
graduation requirement. The Rev. Patty Alexander, St. Andrew’s Upper School Chaplain, connected Mbozi with Bishop Walker School, a tuition-free Episcopal school for boys who come from traditionally underserved communities.
“He had this vision and this was his initiative,” Alexander said. “The very fact that it is an older student who is coming and is enthusiastic and passionate about it makes a huge difference.”
Mbozi hosted an Hour of Code event at Bishop Walker School in 2016 and said the students’ response inspired him to do more.
“They were very receptive and they were very interested, more than I thought they would be. One of them said it felt like Christmas,” Mbozi said. “It had a profound effect on me and made me want to keep doing something like that with the school.
“I think it allowed them to dream of what they could be. The first time around they said they wanted to do things like own a car wash. The next time, a kid told me he wanted to work at one of the big game developers. That was cool for me to see.”
Mbozi recruited Cyberninjaz, a local business that runs technology camps for kids, to lead an eight-week coding camp for Bishop Walker students.
The club needed to be free of charge, so Mbozi wrote fundraising proposals, solicited donors and set up a GoFundMe page. He met his fundraising goal in time to host the camp in spring 2017.
During the camp, participants were introduced to the basics of computer programming using games and drag-and-drop tools. When planning the camp, Mbozi drew on the Mind, Brain, and Education Science strategies he learned as a fellow with the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning
, particularly the benefits of choice.
“By giving them choice in what they’re doing – all their projects, their groups, what games to make - it made it more interesting for them,” he said.
Math teacher Paul Ternes, who taught Mbozi in his computer science class, said he has many strengths that make him well-suited to teach children coding.
“Danan possesses a great blend of programming talent and humility, making him very approachable. I can see how new programmers would look up to him, while still finding him accessible,” he said.
This week, Mbozi returned to Bishop Walker School to volunteer as a teaching assistant, allowing him to complete his community service requirement and visit students one more time before he graduates. He will attend University of Toronto in the fall, where he plans to study computer science.
“Our students are so fed by the work that they do at Bishop Walker, and those boys look up to our guys,” Alexander said. “The fact that (Mbozi) has chosen to go back for his senior service project speaks volumes.”