Andrew Osterday swore he'd never run a marathon. Sure, he loves playing soccer and running around with his dog. But chugging through 26.2 miles? Never.

“I’m not a long-distance runner by any means,” says Osterday, a member of the Coca-Cola Ambassador team based in Atlanta.

Yet, come Sunday, Nov. 2, Osterday will toe the starting line with some 50,000 other runners at the 44th New York Marathon. What caused him to change his mind? Strangely enough, learning about an after-school program in New York City called C/I that is teaching kids how to code spurred him to sign up.

“C/I's mission is to inspire and equip underserved students with the skills in computing, leadership and professionalism needed to thrive in the Internet economy and beyond,” says Lidia Garcia, a development associate with TeamInteractive, a part of C/I that teams up with athletes like Osterday to raise money for the program.



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A group of C/I students on retreat take a break from coding.


The program got its start back in 2001 in the Bronx to give students from underserved communities the chance to learn more about technology and computer programming skills. C/I was an instant hit and has since continued to grow by leaps and bounds. To date, some 2,200 students have been given the opportunity to learn valuable tech skills through C/I.

In addition to the original program at the Bronx Tech and Trek Center, 12 other programs engage 250 students ranging from freshmen to seniors from neighborhoods in Harlem and the Bronx.

The program has also evolved so that it now has three complementary components:

Code/Interactive: This computer science class held twice a week teaches skills like HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT, PYTHON, and RUBY using a curriculum provided by the education company, Codeacademy. Students are also given the chance to hone their skills in product design, basic entrepreneurship and professionalism.

Camp/Interactive: Students who complete the Code/Interactive curriculum are eligible to attend Young Entrepreneur Summits, which are two- to 10-day retreats to areas outside the city where they can learn more about skills like leadership, problem solving, business planning and rapid prototyping.

Career/Interactive: The third component of the C/I program gives successful students the opportunity to apply for paid summer internships with top tech companies like Google and Twitter.

Case in point: Richard Ortecho is an 11th grader at Democracy Prep. He says that C/I allows him to dive deeply into a field he finds interesting. 

“I love the support I receive with the help of the C/I team and enjoy the attitude of the faculty that run this program,” he says, while also acknowledging that learning skills like HTML and CSS isn’t exactly easy. “I hope that C/I helps me become a computer science major in college and pushes me to do my best in coding so that I can continue to pursue my dream of becoming a computer programmer.”



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C/I allows Richard Ortecho (left) to explore a field he finds interesting. 'I hope C/I helps me become a computer science major in college and pushes me to do my best in coding so that I can continue to pursue my dream of becoming a computer programmer,' the high school junior says.

Stephan Green, a 12th grader who also attends Democracy Prep, says his favorite aspect of C/I is the chance to take free field trips to the offices of a tech company like Twitter. In terms of his future, he’s already planning on studying computer science or medicine in college.

What also makes C/I interesting is that team members like Garcia work with volunteers like Osterday to raise money for the program by running races like the New York Marathon and others such as the Five Borough Bike Tour and the Boston Marathon. Since events like these are popular and difficult to get into, C/I offers volunteers the chance to participate if they agree to raise money for the program.



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Andrew Osterday and his daughter, Sloan

“It’s a motivating and fun way to raise money that directly goes to the kids,” says Garcia.

When Osterday learned that, by running the marathon, and raising the $3,000 entry fee from his friends and family, he would be paying for two students like Ortecho and Green to attend C/I for an entire year, he was hooked.

“The more I learned about the program, the more it resonated with me because I had benefitted in my own career from learning the skills these kids are getting," he says. "Having that personal connection has made it a much bigger thing for me and made raising that money more than just a personal challenge.”

In other words, Osterday found himself running not just to push his own physical boundaries, but, more importantly, to help change a student’s life.

Here’s wishing him and all the other volunteers out there running for C/I – who are collectively on track to raise more than $37,500 this year – a great race!