The words “Making Tomorrow Better in Tunisia” have never been more compelling than when we see the true essence of this statement driving Coca-Cola MENA Scholar Kyane Kassiri.

Kassiri teamed up with three other U.S. Department of State programs alumni, who are equally as passionate about computer programming and digital learning, to start Young Tunisian Coders Academy (YTCA). As a coding training program, YTCA uses Scratch, an open-source programming language, to help kids between the ages of 10 and 15 program their own interactive stories, games and animations. Scratch also helps strengthen creativity, reasoning skills and collaborative work.

With the support of the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Engagement and Innovation Fund (AEIF), the growing YTCA team has taught 500 students in 23 of Tunisia’s 24 governorates to code, focusing on students with limited access to technology.

Kyane Kassiri MENA Scholar

The 2013 class of Coca-Cola MENA Scholars in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Where It All Started

Kassiri was part of the Coca-Cola Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Scholarship Program that brings 100 students from across the region to the United States during the summer to attend classes in entrepreneurship at Indiana University. Now in its fifth year, the program has impacted more than 500 young community leaders to be part of a growing network of change makers.

“We acquired a lot of skills in the U.S., and we wanted to put them in practice back home,” said Kassiri.

Kyane Kassiri

Kyane Kassiri offers coding guidance to a young student.

Educating the Next Generation of Tunisian Leaders

After the success of YTCA’s national competition in Tunis, Kassiri and the team are planning to expand their reach this month with Coder Summer Camps.

“Our mission is to equip youth from an early age with coding skills to render them agents of a new technological revolution in Tunisia and all over the world,” he said.

The YTCA team is convinced that youth must be prepared to learn new skills. By exposing them to coding and its underlying algorithmic reasoning, YTCA believes it can open minds and tap into these students' creative potential, better preparing them to become active, engaged, global citizens who contribute to Tunisia’s development.

Kyane Kassiri

Kassiri teaches a class at the Young Tunisian Coders Academy.

Recognition and the Way Forward

The Tunisian government is taking notice of this youth-led organization and several other initiatives emerging in the country. The Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy recently invited Kassiri to meet with ministers, deputies, investors and entrepreneurs. The goal of this conference was to elaborate on talking points of a new law project introduced by DigiStartup, a new taskforce of Tunisian entrepreneurs.

The law project encompasses recommendations from the Tunisian entrepreneurial ecosystem addressed to the government to facilitate the process of creating and developing startups. Kassiri was invited to talk about his entrepreneurial journey while completing his studies.

Kassiri is one of many young Tunisian leaders who are starting to reshape the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tunisia.

“This is just the beginning," he concluded. "We are aspiring to establish one of the most influential coding schools in the region. I want to be the proof that you can make it with dedication, hard work and a lot of passion.”