Spotlight on: Kevin Calderon

Kevin Calderon, ASC 3.

Kevin Calderon is a graduate of ASC 3 at Alley, and is a freshman at Stanford.

Q: How did you hear about All Star Code?

A: It was actually through a quick Google search. I had just gotten rejected from this lab opportunity in the city and I was like, all right, so that’s canceled. Let’s find something else to do. I looked up opportunities for high school students in NYC and All Star Code was one of the first things that popped up, so I thought that was pretty interesting. I clicked on the link and, well, now we’re here.

Q: So you were already interested in tech before you came to us! What made you interested?

A: So I think it started the summer after 9th grade. I didn’t do anything that summer. So I was very bored, and on Khan Academy there’s a JavaScript course on animation that’s very basic. One of the first exercises is moving a square across the screen. Doing that, I think I got my first interest in computer science and coding in general. It was really cool. You can do that with just a few lines of code, so imagine what you can do with tons of more experience and some more code. I always thought was so cool, so yeah, that’s that’s kind of where my interest started.

I like a challenge. That’s personally for me what I look for in any role, or anything I do. I think that computer science is a constant learning experience. You’re always looking for a way to solve the problem, which is kind of my thing and the way I like to do things.

Q: What was it like coming into the program?

A: It was definitely intimidating because I knew that they were going to be a lot of other people there who are probably going to be more experienced than me and it was going to be a lot. I mean, they don’t call it an intensive for no reason. I definitely felt a little intimidated about going to do well, going to make friends….the biggest thing that I was scared of was just making friends and surviving the program.

So I think that was my biggest concern and you know, as time went on you get more and more comfortable with your cohort, you build a brotherhood among each other and you really get to know everyone and then you come to realize it’s not about figuring it out on your own, it’s about growing as a team and with the people around you.

It really did change my mindset. I definitely grew a lot from that experience.

Q: Do you keep in touch with your cohort?

A: Very much so. There are a few people that I’m still pretty close with. But yeah, we have a big group chat with a lot of people in it, and it’s like even though we may not talk every day, when you do talk it’s like no time has passed.

Q: Your host site was Alley, right? What was that like?

A: It was a very interesting environment. Everything felt very fast-paced and also very busy, but it was a very cool environment to be in because it felt like being in the center of startup culture in New York City, honestly. Being around so many people who are coming in, looking at ideas and developing…Actually, I met my mentor there, when I was in the program. She owns a startup in the bakery business. She’s still a pretty close mentor of mine. She’s definitely been giving me a lot of advice, and been coaching me in general.

Q: You’re at Stanford now. Did you grow up there, or in New York?

A: I grew up in Queens. Born and raised.

Q: Is this the first time you’ve ever been like out of state?

A: Yeah. I mean I’ve been in it before, and I’ve been in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with the family, but this is my first time being outside New York City for a long period of time so, it’s definitely been a very interesting experience coming into this new environment. Honestly, it’s very different being around people from all over the country and all over the world and it’s definitely a mutual growth process. It’s not New York City anymore.

It’s a little weird adjusting to the slower pace here, but at the same time, the environment is also paired with the high stress of being in college. It’s been a process.

I just met the other two alumni who go here as well. And they’re definitely going to be great resources of mentorship and help for me with just growing accustomed to this place.

Q: It’s your first semester in college. So it feels a little weird to ask what you’re thinking about studying, but do you have an idea of how you want your college experience ago, or are you just feeling it out?

A: I’m definitely majoring in CS. Yeah, I’m thinking about a double major in art history or comparative studies in race and ethnicity. I may or may not do it. We’ll see. CS is my main goal here.

Q: Do you find that there are a lot of people who have your background taking CS, or do you find that it’s less diverse than you’re used to?

A: The CS courses here actually pretty large. There’s 106 A, and 106 B, which are both part of the intro series, and there’s 106 X, which is the same thing as B, but it’s the honors section. The work is definitely on the heavier side. So B will have about 500 people and X has about 70ish people in it.

Q: What are you in?

A: I’m in X. And the people in X are very much not like me. Looking around on the first day, I’d say that Latinx and Black students would make up probably maybe 10 out of the 70 of us. The majority being white and East Asian students and South Asian students. It kinda shows how different it is, and who gets the resources to be able to take on an honors class.

It definitely did surprise me, but it also kind of didn’t in a sense. It’s just shocking to see a real-life example of how much a minority Black and Brown people make up in the tech industry and how it’s even reflected in the classes we take here in college.

Q: Is there anything else that you wanted to say about All Star Code?

A: It’s definitely helped me a lot. I’m from an undocumented Salvadorian community in Queens and there aren’t a lot of resources or a lot of people who can help you get into the tech industry or find jobs, or go to college even. Being in All Star Code definitely gave me a lot of those resources, or at least pointed me to those resources when I needed to find them. I’m very grateful.