Dev Catalyst Celebrates Its Fifth Annual San Francisco Trip

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Dev Catalysts Celebrates Its Fifth Annual San Francisco Trip

During the start of the 2017-2018 school year, high school students began applying to theCO’s Dev Catalyst program, a curriculum designed to cultivate and grow the abilities of students with technological talents in the greater West Tennessee area. Throughout the course of the program, nearly 800 students participated in one of three categories (Novice Web Development, Advanced Web Development, and Data Development) in order to learn teamwork skills, develop professional skills, network with tech professionals, and hopefully win the grand prize trip to San Francisco, California.


2018 marks the fifth year that Dev Catalyst has taken students to California, as they provide them with tours of technology companies, including Google, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, LinkedIn, and Pivotal. Despite the immense number of applicants, only twenty-three students were selected to attend the trip based on their project submissions.

Novice Web Development applicants were required to work with a partner and a local client to create a five-page responsive website, complete an online interview, and have a teacher recommendation score provided by their high school. Students who applied to the Advanced Web Development category were expected to be knowledgeable in more complex programming languages like JavaScript and PHP. Along with a website coded from scratch, they also have to submit a digital portfolio of their work. Finally, the Data Development category was offered for the first time this year, and students were tasked with creating a mock database for a hypothetical retail store. They learned to code in SQL and PHP, and considered what data a retail store requires. Including the database, students also submitted an interactive way for people to access the data either through an app or a website.

Among the winners, ten high schools were represented overall with several schools representing Jackson, including Madison Academic, Jackson Christian, University School of Jackson, Trinity Christian Academy, and JCM Early College High. The San Francisco trip is more than an award; it exposes students to what their future could be and shows them that living in rural, small-town Tennessee does not have to be a limitation to success.

“I always love how students discover that there’s other people like them,” says Molly Plyler, Educational Outreach Coordinator at theCO. “Sometimes these students don’t connect with people at their school who are interested in the same things that they are or are gifted in technology like they are. But when you take the top talent from all of these schools and you put them together and you start listening to the conversations they have, you realize that they literally could achieve anything.”

This trip uncovers what students like these can accomplish by giving them the chance to tour big tech companies and have conversations with different designers and developers, allowing the students to receive encouragement from professionals who look a lot like them, such as Early College High student Chrissy Taylor’s experience at SalesForce:

“Just seeing and learning that I could use my passion and design and turn it into a career was really inspiring to me.”

Many current tech professionals work in a field that was not their intended career path, and several studied something completely different during college. The trip to Silicon Valley gives students the opportunity to recognize the innovation that is driving so many careers and businesses today, and theCO is optimistic that the Dev Catalyst students can carry out anything they set their minds to.