When teacher Rachel Warbelow signed up for Dev Bootcamp, an intensive nine-week course that teaches professional Web development, she didn’t expect to retain much of what she would learn.
Warbelow, a co-founder of Scholars Working OverTime, a college-prep program for east Las Vegas middle school students, hoped to create a simple app to save time on daily student reports, which took 20 hours each week to record by hand, enter into a spreadsheet and print.
“I was imagining the SWOT Bot being a simple Web app where teachers could, maybe at the end of class, go and enter student behaviors for the day, ” Warbelow said in a video posted on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website. “Even that functionality would have made my life so much easier.”
Instead, she and three bootcamp classmates created a comprehensive data-management system that allows teachers to log information by iPad during class and parents to check on their child’s progress by text message.
Upon returning to school this fall, Warbelow’s students were so excited and impressed by their teacher’s creation that they, too, wanted to learn how to code.
The seventh- and eighth-graders picked up the programming languages quickly, but they were missing an essential tool — computers.
Scholars Working OverTime is “a school within a school” housed at Eldorado High, where the SWOT team is allowed to use the computer lab, but only if there are gaps in the schedule.
That’s where the Indiegogo campaign comes in.
Warbelow and fellow SWOT co-founder Ben Salkowe are trying to raise $35,000 to build a computer lab for their 118 students. The money will buy 15 to 20 pairing stations, enabling 30 to 40 students to work at once.
“When they get to see code, or see it break depending on how they’ve entered it, it’s really exciting to them,” Warbelow said.
Warbelow and Salkowe started SWOT four years ago as Teach for America instructors with the goal of getting struggling students “to and through the college of their dreams.”
The public-school program started with fifth-graders and now focuses on middle school students, most of whom come from low-income families with parents who did not attend college. Enrollment is first-come, first-served and requires its students to attend a longer, nine-hour school day.
The students go from having some of the lowest academic support levels to the highest, Salkowe said. Students sign contracts of excellence and parents pledge to stay involved.
The results have been tangible.
In Nevada’s criterion-referenced tests in 2011, SWOT’s fifth-graders were 87 proficient in math and 71 percent proficient in reading. The year before entering SWOT, the same group scored 47 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
The online fundraiser ends Sunday and needs $10,000 to reach its goal. If the goal is not met, the teachers will use what they’ve collected to buy computers and will continue to raise money for the lab.
“We’ve just been so amazed by the support of the community,” Warbelow said. “When we put this fundraiser online I thought maybe $1,000 would be raised and we could get a computer or two.”
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3809. Follow kristy_tea on Twitter.