Code for Trenton volunteers making strides, to appear on Trenton 365 Show

TCNJ students and employees meet with Code for Trenton volunteers at a meeting in December 2015 — (Photo: Adams Sibley)

Maybe you were in downtown Trenton for the Levitt AMP Music Series this past summer. And perhaps some people in your group, maybe a child, grew hungry. So someone pulled out a smartphone to find a nearby restaurant using the Yelp or Tripadvisor apps. And of the nearby eateries, many did not have a website or menus linked online. It was this experience, shared by a non-Trenton resident, that propelled the Code for Trenton volunteer group on their newest project: Menus of Trenton.

Back in 2014, lifelong Trenton resident and UPenn graduate, Adam Porroni met Nathan Suberi, a math teacher at Foundation Collegiate Academy, while advocating for a new Trenton High. The two connected through a mutual goal of using technology to empower communities and worked to help some non-profits in the area. They both felt an urgency to try something to get more folks excited about tech. So in collaboration with volunteers from the Citizens Campaign — they hosted Trenton’s first all-day hack-a-thon. Code for Trenton was born.

The first Code for Trenton meeting. Porroni is standing up and Suberi is seated next to him, in the center. (Photo: Steve Chernoski — Feb 2015)

The volunteers helped update a list of active after-school and summer programs, which are now found on Collaboration Trenton’s website. But the group wanted to help others learn to actually code as well, so Porroni and Suberi hosted a fast-paced 6+ week series of workshops on how to make a website from scratch. The best day had nearly 20 people show up, and students ranged from 5th graders to state employees.

There was room for expansion and this fall, the group partnered with TCNJ’s Center for Community Engaged Learning & Research (CEL). After the college moved into the TrentonWorks space (above the downtown Dunkin’ Donuts) and the internships that followed, TCNJ students compiled a database of Trenton’s businesses, in addition to testing other tech projects. But the work rarely got beyond the prototype stage. Enter Adams Sibley, Advanced CEL Program Specialist, and Interactive Multimedia/ Graphic Design TCNJ student, Kerrin McLaughlin, who connected with Porroni, after Suberi moved abroad. Now, collaboration between the college and Code for Trenton citizen volunteers has accelerated momentum on both sides.

Code for Trenton meets in October 2015 (Photo: Steve Chernoski)

The next meeting is in January to discuss how to get the aforementioned business database online in an easy-to-navigate webpage, as well as helping to optimize search results. The menu collection for Trenton restaurants and bars is currently in progress. The group also improved Trenton’s page on the open-source wikitravel website.

This Tuesday, December 22nd from 8–9pm, Porroni and Alex Rivera, also born and raised in Trenton and now with the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College, will be Jacque Howard’s guests on the Trenton 365 radio show. They will be joined by McLaughlin to discuss Code for Trenton’s accomplishments, current projects and future goals, one of which includes getting more enthusiastic citizens to join the group any way they can, with or without tech experience.

Rivera, new to the group, described the Code for Trenton environment and his excitement to make change through the group, “I don’t have the ability to code, but am nonetheless welcome because the people there understand everyone has a skill that can play a part in solving a problem in someone’s life.”

The live radio program can be heard on 1300 WIMG AM or on wimg1300.com.


Code for Trenton was inspired by the national Code for America Brigade initiative. According to their website, the goal of brigades are to:

use technology to build new tools to help with local civic issues. Code for America supports Brigade chapters with resources, tools, and access to the wider civic technology movement.