CODEchella 2017 took place on Saturday, April 8th at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in South LA. Congratulations to students Ricardo Morales, Giovanny Fletes, Eduardo (“Lalo”) Perez Leon, and Malik Tate, who won the top honors of the night for their website designed for client Simon’s Burgers.

You can view all of the students’ websites now!

Conservation Corps Museum:

Christian Food Bank:

Cindy’s Shoes:

Cal’s Body Shop:

Rodriguez Planning and Design: 

Simon’s Burgers:

For downloadable photos of the event, click here.

Press Release: For the post-event press release, click here.

Here is a clip of CODEchella 2017 featured on the local ABC7 news! 


CODEchella Scholarship Fund made possible by Colocation America

Our amazing CODEchella sponsor Colocation America is now offering a CODEchella scholarship to all YouthBuild Charter seniors and graduates who have participated in CODEchella and WebSlam. The purpose of this funding is to aid CODEchella alumni in funding their continuous education in STEM-related fields. Any YouthBuild Charter School of California student who has attended CODEchella (or WebSlam) and will be continuing their education in the Fall of 2017 in a STEM-related field is eligible to apply. View the requirements below and click here to apply.

CODEchella Scholarship Fund Application Requirements:

  • Submit Online Application* – contact information and extracurricular activities and/or awards & honors received
  • Submit 3 Essays – 2 required prompts and 1 prompt of your choosing.
  • Submit 3 References – 1 must be from a teacher and 2 from other appropriate reference (see application for specifics)

Once Selected, Student Requirements Include:

  • Attend 2 Events – Induction Ceremony (TBD) and Spring Event (TBD)
  • Engage with Mentor – Communicate a minimum of once a month
  • Engage with YouthBuild’s STEM Director – Communicate a minimum of every 3 months
  • Fill Out 2 Surveys – A 6-Month Evaluation Survey and End-of-Year Survey
  • Maintain a GPA of 2.5

Use of Funding:
Funds may be used for school-related expenses including, but not limited to, books and tuition. Please note that the grant is for $1,000 and will be disbursed in two parts depending on enrollment status and grade point average. 

Application Deadline: June 13, 2017 at 11:59PM*

About CODEchella – “Coding for the community”

CODEchella is a unique student coding event at YouthBuild Charter School if California in which YouthBuild students have just 12 hours to build entire websites for local small businesses. This year, we are pleased to welcome Second Spectrum as our Presenting Sponsor. Our Founding Partner is Colocation America, who will also be launching a new STEM Scholarship Program for CODEchella participants at our 2017 event. At CODEchella, students work in teams with volunteers from local tech companies, such as FactualSecond Spectrum, Goliath Graffix and Firebrain, who mentor them to help plan, design, and code websites that meet their clients’ needs.  To prepare for the IMG_2001event, the students (most of whom have little to no previous experience with coding) take a week’s worth of intensive Adobe Photoshop, HTML, and CSS coding classes, taught by YouthBuild Charter School’s Director of STEM Nadia Despenza and industry professional Emma Cunningham. At the end of the day on Saturday, students are judged by a panel of local experts and one team is crowned the winner. Other prizes are given out in categories, such as “Lil Steve Jobs,” “Most Improved,” “Best Presenter,” and “Best Web Design.” All students who participate earn five technology credits and a certificate for completing over 40 hours worth of Computer Science.

Click here for the CODEchella 2017 press release.

CODEchella 2016

Our 3rd Annual CODEchella event took place on Saturday, April 9th, 2016 at Los Angeles Trade Tech College from 8am to 8pm. 30 students, 10 mentors, and 8 clients participated in the event, which marked the closest competition in CODEchella history. The winning team won by just one point, and there was a three-way tie for second place.

Congratulations to students Marysa Carmona, Luis Lara and Amber Rodney of Team HTMLiens for winning first prize with a website they designed for client Ellen Sanchez Consulting. You can view their website here:

USC Annenberg Media did a great write-up of last year’s event. Check it out.

Click here to view or download our official press release for CODEchella 2016. 

Click here to view or download our post-event release.

Click here to view and download official photos from the event.

We created a video to recap the event and thank everyone involved. This video was shown prior to the presentations and judging at CODEchella 2016. Stay tuned for more videos!

We are proud of all of our students for all that they accomplished in the short time they were given. Below are the rest of the websites our students created during CODEchella 2016.

Team: LA Expendables (Kim Abarca, Armando Sanchez, Ignacio Celis and Jose Trejo)
Client: Newton Area Community Police Advisory Board

Team: C.R.V.L. (Cristina Bravo, Valente Pereyda, Libni Cordero, and Ricardo Trujillo)
Client: La Cevicheria

Team: JATA (Amber Duron, Tynice Witherspoon, Javier Casillas, and Adrianna Rodriguez)
Client: Kelly Kay Consulting

Team: Alpha (Stephanie Carrasco, Jessica Camacho, Vicente Guillen, and Austin Huffman)
Client: Writer Sarah Park

Team: Rocket (Alfredo Rodriguez, Saul Castano, Wilmer Matamoros, Raiel Zewengel)
Client: Acappella Worship Leaders and Choral Music Conference

Team: Platinum Wave (Anthony Neal, Alex Nunez, Anthony Corrales)
Client: CSTAC

Team: LEAD the Dream (Coco Xiao, Kawaii Xiao, Soledad Barriga, Liliana Garcia)
Client: The Fair Chance Project

CODEchella 2015

Last year’s winners were Brian and Andrew from LEAD YouthBuild in Lincoln Heights, who built a website for local actress and spoken word poet Yazmin Monet Watkins. You can watch a recap video from the event below:

Why such an emphasis on teaching students to code?

Our Director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Nadia Despenza is dedicated to finding creative and innovative ways to teach computer science to the young people at YCSC, from teaching students Scratch to expanding access to technology in the classroom by using iPads and Apple TV.

After attending an event called WebSlam at Youthbuild Philadelphia, Ms. Despenza decided to bring the idea back to Youthbuild of California and work with the community to create a South L.A. Webslam. She worked with Colocation America to sponsor the event, and brought in URBAN TxT, Factual and Los Angeles Trade Tech to work as partners to truly make the event a success, not only for Youthbuild Charter students, but for the greater South L.A. community. This could not happen without all the help from the companies, non-profits, and school partners involved.Winning Team WebSlam

Ms. Despenza believes that teaching students how to code will help them increase math and critical thinking skills while creating life-long learners in STEM, open the door to a multitude of tech-related job openings, and serve as a pathway out of poverty. Currently there are more computer science jobs than there are people to fill them, and Ms. Despenza wants to see YCSC students filling these jobs.

Young Tech Entrepreneurs Initiative

In August 2013, YouthBuild Charter School of California launched its Young Tech Entrepreneurs Initiative (YTEI) in an effort to prepare students for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. The Initiative was led by YouthBuild Charter’s Director of STEM Nadia Despenza. Following the launch of YTEI, Ms. Despenza began training the school’s science and technology teachers how to effectively use iPads and Apple TVs in their classrooms to teach students the basics of coding through websites like and Scratch. She helped the school sites order much needed science supplies and update their classroom technology. Additionally, she hosted a successful student coding event called WebSlam (see below), which gave students the opportunity to get some hands-on coding experience with experts in the field.

IMG_20140903_092754At the start of the 2014-15 school year, YouthBuild Charter School of California received funding from local tech company Colocation America to launch a rigorous computer science class at the school’s South LA site, located on the campus of LA Trade Tech College. The Young Tech Entrepreneurs Computer Science class was a 7-week course for students who wanted to learn the basics of computer science, graphic design, and coding a website in HTML and CSS. The curriculum for the class was developed by Ms. Despenza and a local freelance web coder, and they are co-taught the class together. The computer science class lays the foundation for CODEchella.

About WebSlam
In 2014, YCSC hosted an event called WebSlam (inspired by an event of the same name in Philadelphia) in collaboration with URBAN TxT and sponsored by
Colocation America. (This event was re-branded the following year as CODEchella.) During the week leading up to the event, URBAN TxT, a Los Angeles-based program that teaches at-risk young people of color how to build iPhone apps and other open-source technologies, led intensive, day-long classes on HTML coding for the twenty YCSC students selected to participate in the WebSlam. On Saturday, April 12th, 2014, the twenty students worked in teams of two to five with mentors from local technology and web design companies, including Factual, to build an entire website for a local client by the end of the day. The students were judged by a panel of industry leaders, and prizes were given out for the best website design.

There was a great write-up about the WebSlam in Forbes. Gem Coding WebSlam

The winners were:
1st Prize: Shaquann’s Gourmet Cookies:
2nd Prize: Los Angeles Trade Tech College’s Cosmetology Department:
3rd Prize: Los Angeles Trade Tech College’s A.S.O.:

Click here the link view photos from the event:

Celina shares why she wanted to participate in the WebSlam

Click here to download our WebSlam press release.

For more information on the importance of promoting computer science in the classroom, check out this website:

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 10.58.20 AM