Programming Languages Meet the Written Language

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This summer, four Dev Catalyst students took on Jackson-Madison County Library’s Big Read website. Students from schools across West Tennessee were hand-selected to develop the official website for the project, an effort to get the nation reading.

“The Jackson-Madison County Library was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts,” Jenci Spradlin, the adult services librarian at the library, explained. “The Big Read is about connecting with other people in your community through the joy of sharing a good book, one of the main components of the grant program.”

Spradlin was thrilled to team up with theCO for the project given its importance and emphasis on community.

“One of the first things that I thought of as we were preparing our grant before we were awarded it was that there be a way to collaborate with a lot of different organizations in the community,” Spradlin explained. “The first organization that I thought of in terms of communications was theCO and the Dev Catalyst program. I think that it is important from the library standpoint that we can take everything we do and make it educational, even something that’s in the planning processes of being done.”

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The students were selected from previous trip awardees. Spradlin had full confidence in the site’s outcome.

“I knew that if they were excited about it, that was going to create a finished product that other people would find exciting and interesting and engaging,” Spradlin said, “but it really did impress me how professional the students were, even though this was our first client meeting.”

Throughout the summer, each student was given a unique role and a chance to collaborate with peers with whom the had previously been their competition during the school year. While completing the project, many of the students were still involved in other summer programs. Content editor Cinque Peggs, along with the other students, found his rhythm.

“During the summer, at first, I thought it was going to be challenging because I knew I had a summer class to go to and other summer projects I was going to be working on,” Peggs explained, “but the group made the schedule very flexible.”

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As a student at Chester County High School, Bradley Holloway competed in the Dev Catalyst Novice Web Dev Competition by creating a website with his very own business. That experience helped him work as the lead developer for the Big Read website and added to his already polished skillset.

“I’ve already had layout design [experience and training]. In general, I learned definitely how to work with people,” Holloway explained.

Madison Academic Dev Catalyst standout Katie Lowery appreciated the ability to stay productive throughout the summer as the team’s UX designer.

“It was definitely a change . . . but it was a welcomed change.” Katie said. “I really enjoyed it, and it was a nice way to kind of keep learning over the summer.”

The best part for Katie was getting to know the students and collaborating with the library.

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“I just overall really enjoyed working with an actual customer and getting to know how that whole process works, when there’s someone expecting a product,” she said.

Project manager Sumeja Hrnjic agreed: “Honestly [my favorite part of the project was] just meeting all these great people and spending time actually talking to a client.”

While acting as project manager, Sumeja gained meaningful leadership skills.

“It was very new to me,” she explained, “but overall I feel like it was a very rewarding experience, meeting so many new people and having such responsibilities.”

Check out the students’ work for yourself at jmcreads.org.