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LaunchCode Mentor Center to hold liftoff event

A non-profit aimed at developing more programmers in St. Louis is launching a new center on the north side.

The LaunchCode Mentor Center will open its doors Thursday evening at 4811 Delmar Boulevard, in a former state unemployment office.

Center director Chris Bay said they hope to engage the surrounding Fountain Park neighborhood with the kickoff event.

"We want people to not just come and celebrate and see a ribbon being cut. We want people to interact," he said.

Bay said they’d like to get about 1,000 people in the doors to learn about LaunchCode, do some programming and even create art that will go up on the walls.

Attendees will be able to sign up for LaunchCode programs. Those include CoderGirl, a meetup for women; and CS50x, an intro to computer science. Bay said the goal is to make getting a job in technology more attainable.

"So if you look at our programs they’re very, very nontraditional. They’re free," Bay said. "Most of them are on evenings or weekends, so people who have jobs and have to change fields... it makes it more accessible to them, as well."

The building also will house the NAACP and a Chicago-based coding bootcamp for youth called Blue1647.

Anyone enrolled in a class can use computers at the center whenever they like. Bay said they plan to start a membership program for others in January.

"Kind of a YMCA for coding," he said.

Credit (Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)
The center is in the Fountain Park neighborhood just north of Delmar Boulevard. Director Chris Bay said they want to engage residents.

LaunchCode announced it would open the center in April. The Missouri Department of Economic Development donated the former Nathaniel J. ‘Nat’ Rivers State Office Building and is giving the center $250,000 in tax credits. Bay said the center has been able to raise about $500,000 in donations with those credits.

The kickoff event is Thursday from 5 until 9 p.m. at 4811 Delmar Boulevard.

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Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.