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Fox 25: Coding academy for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking set to launch in OKC

By Caroline Vandergriff
Published: Mon, July 29, 2019 

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A one-of-a-kind coding academy is set to launch in Oklahoma City.

The CTRL + SHIFT Code School will help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking begin new careers and escape their abusers. The Palomar Family Justice Center is now accepting applications for the academy’s first class.

“Coding is a really easy-access, easy-entry career field,” said Bekah Mercer, the IT and marketing director for Palomar. “You don’t have to go to college for it.”

The six-month program at the CTRL + SHIFT Code School should be enough to change the lives of survivors.

“When our students complete it, they will be able to get into jobs that pay well and are in high-demand in their community,” Mercer said.

That financial freedom and independence can help victims permanently escape their abusers.

“About 99% of domestic violence cases include some element of financial abuse,” she said. “This means that the victims are not allowed to have access to money. They’re not allowed to work… Empowering survivors through education and employment opportunities enables them to get away and stay away and stay safe.”

The coding academy is able to get off the ground thanks to an anonymous donor, but Palomar still needs more donations to keep it running.

“The long-term sustainability model is that the program will be paid for through a combination of allowing non-survivors to buy into the program to fund their own education, and then also asking survivors to pay back into the program to pay it forward for the next group,” said Mercer.

The first program will kick on in September, with new classes starting every four months.

“I am a woman in tech and I’d love to see more women in tech in our community in Oklahoma City, and I think it’s a great opportunity to really change lives for survivors and their families,” she said.

Palomar is looking for anyone with tech experience to volunteer as a guest speaker or mentor for students going through the program. They also need companies willing to offer their students internships.

You can apply to the program or get more information about it here.