Jeffrey Martín, CEO and founder of honorCode, has contagious energy. Meeting him at the Civic of Center Innovation, where he recently was named to its inaugural fellowship class, he lit up as he talked about education, upward mobility in the city and how programming can help change all of that — especially in Atlanta.
A social enterprise and non-profit, honorCode aims to provide children with the tools they need to make the changes needed in their communities. It provides framework and curriculum services to local schools and districts in the form of programming classes for children K-12 and workshops for teachers and businesses.
Martín had the idea for honorCode while working in Teach for America in 2013. Bringing the idea back to Atlanta, his first school, Charles R. Drew Charter School, is just down the street from where he grew up. It’s currently being used as a model for other future places: “It’s not just about their students. It’s about how can their practices go to other spaces to help other folks get the same things done that we’re doing. They’re really honest about that”
Martín hopes this year, under the tutelage of CCI, that he and his co-founder will be able to incorporate more schools into their roster, find more fundraising opportunities, and, of course, create more success stories.
Hypepotamus sat down with Martín to talk about the importance of honorCode’s curriculum, his new fellowship with CCI, and where he would like to be in two-years time.At the heart of it all, what is honorCode’s mission?
HonorCode’s purpose is to empower schools to build the capacity for tomorrow’s world.
How did your upbringing in Kirkwood inspire honorCode?
I went to Whitefoord Elementary (nearby). We currently have our partnership and I went there before they had all the fancy bells and whistles. I took a leave of absence from Brown University to come here and do honorCode. It’s been really interesting thing. Atlanta has been through a lot of changes.
When you look at a statistic in that 2013 New York Times article: Atlanta has a 4% up mobility number. The article said, “In areas like Atlanta, upward mobility appears to be substantially lower than in any other rich country.” I grew up in Atlanta, I didn’t know about all these statistics. Like I was like “I’m a kid, I’m doing all these things.” Honor Code comes out of that aspect of how can you create opportunities when you don’t see them
How does this translate into local children’s education?
On the flipside of this, less than 5% of Atlanta high schools teach coding related skills. Like, teachers are having being boggled down with “Hey, how do you support our kids?” Now education has gotten to this space where we really have to focus back on our kids.
How does honorCode integrate into schools and change this?
We provide curriculum to schools to bring more web development into the general K-12 classroom. We do this through the teachers in the form of professional development, through workshops, activities, tools so teachers can increase their acumen in the classroom.
We also do it through direct instruction to kids in the general classroom and an after school component, where we effectively encourage them to see something in their community that they want to shift. We give them business acumen and teach them a little bit of coding. These things show that you can build something as a 9th and a 10th grader. We are talking about creating opportunities.
Eventually, we are planning on giving our curriculum for free once the students and schools pay for our services.
How do you get involved with the Center for Civic Innovation?
I got the chance to talk with Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director of CCI, and understand where his energy is, what he thinks about the city and how there’s a space for honorCode here. At first, I was supposed to go into consulting and I’d find ways of getting money to honorCode and we would do it that way. Rohit was just not working that way and I’m really glad it didn’t. The fellowship is a huge blessing.
I feel that it happened right when it was supposed to and it is such an honor because even before the fellowship, CCI was trying to make Atlanta better. These issues that I’m talking about have solutions and solutions from folks like myself. You can’t do it alone, so that fellowship also gives you a family to kind of go through and tackle this stuff from and being a social entrepreneur is lonely work.
In the first year, I’m the one that’s going to be training the teachers, I’m the one that’s going to be leading the programming, and also just talk about how this model works. My co-founder, Dylan Stone-Miller, focuses on results.
Aside from your roots here, why did you choose to found honorCode in the Atlanta?
Atlanta is very much on the precipice of becoming what New York and San Francisco, and all those different spaces, are now. Because of the Civil Rights history that we have, there’s a way of telling a story where it isn’t destroying everything you know. Granted, those are still really hard things to talk about, but Atlanta given its history is just a very, very special place to be a model for how to still have an economy that’s striving, but also one that takes care of its people.
What’s the message that you want to put across, for example, for future partnerships?
I want folks to know that Honor Code is here to help get schools to the place that they have always wanted for every single one of their kids. We’re not going to make all these things happen in a year. We might not make it happen in two, but you’re going to see improvements with your students and how they’re doing, investing and learning. That is what all teachers, students, families and even the kids want to happen.
That’s what we’re trying to sell. We’re hoping to engage teachers and stuff like that. If it’s not impacting the kids and changing their perspective around how some of this good and not so good stuff happens in their world, then we aren’t doing what we’re here to do.