AIM Code School


How Russell Stinson Turned a Class Project into a Paid Internship

“I learned so much in my Interface class that I think will be valuable knowledge to have no matter where my career takes me.” – Russell Stinson

Russell Stinson

Russell Stinson felt stuck. He was pursuing a math degree, with plans to get his doctorate and become a math professor. But midway through his degree, he realized that grad school wasn’t for him. He was stuck with a dead-end degree, having taken many highly theoretical math courses that didn’t necessarily translate into a career like applied mathematics courses did. He toyed with the idea of getting his teaching certification so he could teach high school math, but it never materialized. He had a nagging sense that maybe computer programming would be a good career path for him instead, but he had no idea how to get there.

Unemployed with a dead-end degree, he attempted to teach himself how to code, but it didn’t lead to much success. Finally, a¬†family friend clued him in to “coding bootcamps” that existed in various cities — for-profit schools that aimed to turn novice programmers into employable developers within a matter of a few months. He got accepted into one such program in San Francisco, but was asked to leave after three weeks because instructors weren’t equipped to handle certain aspects of his autism spectrum disorder.

Frustrated and in debt, his family had lost so much money on the whole debacle that he wasn’t sure he could afford the bootcamp idea again. That’s when he accidentally stumbled upon the CONNECT grant program through the Nebraska Department of Labor. It promised to pay for the tuition of a full class at a coding bootcamp in Nebraska, plus reimburse his first employer for six months of his wages (up to $19/hour). The deadline for one local code school passed by the time he found out about the grant program, but he had just enough time to apply for an Interface course. He applied and got accepted to the full-stack Java class that ran from January through April of 2016.

RTO at Java class

RTO representatives explain the project criteria to the Java class.

Russell’s favorite part of the course was working on a real-world project. His class developed a web application for local nonprofit Rebuilding Together Omaha. They received a new volunteer sign-up page, as well as an admin page to give administrators access to organized data about their volunteers. This was a massive upgrade from their previous system, a much more primitive page that required administrators to tabulate data mostly by hand. The Java class completely automated the process into a system that will be useful for years to come.

In fact, Rebuilding Together Omaha was so impressed with Russell’s contributions to the project that they offered him a paid internship, bolstered by recommendations from class instructor Kent Smotherman and Interface Managing Director, Shonna Dorsey, as well as by Interface’s continued relationship with RTO. Russell is currently an intern at the nonprofit, enjoying the work he is doing and looking forward to seeing where his new skills will take him.

“I learned so much in my Interface class that I think will be valuable knowledge to have no matter where my career takes me,” Russell said. “Kent Smotherman and Shonna Dorsey have been great advocates for me in so many ways. Without the skills I learned at Interface, I never would have been able to do this job.”