Find out how one St. Louis mom is breaking the code with accessible programming courses for kids.

It all started when St. Louis native Shay Gillespie took her 9-year-old son to his very first coding workshop. After only an hour, he was hooked. Like any mother who wants to support their child’s hobbies and interests, Shay searched for longer classes in programming that he could take near their home in North County. To her dismay, the only thing that came close was a robotics class out in Chesterfield. “You do what you have to do for your kids, right?” she asks rhetorically. “So every Wednesday for six weeks, I drove him to Chesterfield for this class.” The hour-long commute gave Shay plenty of time to think, and it was during these drives that she decided to put something together in North County for kids like her son.

After polling her friends and community with a single question posted to Facebook, Shay learned that if she were to find an instructor to teach kids how to code, she’d be solving a problem that many families face today: how to help a child take their interest in computers or video games and turn it into something even more fulfilling.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Shay began laying groundwork for what would eventually become Color Coded Kids, St. Louis’ first coding “bootcamp” for children. Today, Color Coded Kids is offered in 3 major US cities: St. Louis, Arlington, VA and Houston, TX. She plans to expand to 20 total cities in the next 5 years.

When I asked her about the kind of feedback she receives, Shay told me how parents tend to respond once they see their child’s passion take flight: “I have so much support from parents, it’s unbelievable sometimes. They tell me things like, ‘My son doesn’t want to play basketball anymore because he loves to code now.’ They say the kids remind them about class and can’t wait for new sessions to begin.”

As far as coding languages go, kids learn the basics of Python, JavaScript, CSS and HTML. The 12-week course at Color Coded Kids follows a standard progression through 3 learning stages, from Level 1 (Introduction to Coding), to Level 2 (Coding Novice), to Level 3 (The CODEt). Included in the curriculum are the fundamentals of application development, which involves learning how to build game applications (apps) while learning programming definitions, syntax, functions, algorithms and more.

Though the course is hosted in a classroom-type setting, the goal is to have fun. Shay’s mission is to help kids develop a love for technology at an early age to ultimately increase the talent pool of qualified candidates in technology related careers. When I asked her about how she finds instructors, she admitted that it’s tough. “The value we bring to our students is that we only hire real developers who actually code for a living,” she explains, “So that narrows down available instructors. I typically find instructors from friends and referrals from current instructors. We also perform our due diligence to interview new instructors and make sure they are suitable for the kids.”

Another way for Shay to find coders through her network of colleagues at World Wide Technology, where she is responsible for Diversity Business Strategy. For Shay, every day is a reminder that the future in technology is so bright for today’s youngest developers. Reflecting on her past students, she told me this:

“My favorite story is definitely finding out one of our former students now wants to be a computer developer after college and it was nowhere near what he wanted to do before getting in the classes. That makes me happy because that’s one of the reasons this program started!”

It’s no secret that most companies today lack diversity among software developers. Underrepresented groups face structural and social barriers in access and exposure to subjects like computer science. Shay and her team believe that by starting with children, they can help reverse that trend for an entire generation of future developers or more broadly, entrepreneurs.

Under CCK’s core values of Respect, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Client Satisfaction and Honesty and Integrity (REACH), kids who attend the classes will certainly be challenged in the best way, in the best environment.

You can feel Shay’s passion when she discusses the importance of early enablement in all communities.  Her analogy is this: “The kids are our future – and technology is the future – and we need them to marry each other, but they need to get to know each other as soon as possible. And that’s my goal.”




Dallas, Let's Code!

On June 4th, Color Coded Kids launched in Dallas, TX. This class begins our 12 week Video Game Design course, in which each student will learn how to code their very own video game. The class is taught by Lan Hardy, an experienced developer and trainer located in the Dallas area. Lan is a great addition to the Color Coded Kids team and we look forward to her certifying our CODEts! 

Houston, We have a Problem! Microsoft Store is now Color Coded!

In October, Color Coded Kids began offering classes in the Microsoft Store in the Galleria Mall in Houston, TX. The class mirrors the video game design 12-week course being offered in St. Louis and Arlington, VA.  The developer, Jason Rodgers has many years of software development and programming skills.  Color Coded Kids Video Game Design course will be offered multiple times throughout the year. For more information, please visit Become a CODEt in Houston. 

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Color Coded Kids in Cool Valley!

Color Coded Kids volunteered at Cool Valley Elementary School's STEAM night on Thursday, March 16, 2017. Students rotated room to room doing activities related to science, technology, engineering, art and math.  Color Coded Kids showed the basic functions of coding and helped the kids find their way through programming exercises. Many of the kids had never heard of coding and was fascinated with how it works. It was a great way to spend the evening! 

Image 1: Founder, Shay Gillespie helping students with writing code.    Image 2:  Students writing code and understand the basic of computer programming. 

Image 1: Founder, Shay Gillespie helping students with writing code.  

Image 2:  Students writing code and understand the basic of computer programming. 

Listen to CCK Founder speak on entrepreneurship and stepping out of your comfort zone.

About the Podcast: 

Entrepreneurs are driven to identify and solve problems. In the entrepreneurial ecosystem it’s called the “pain” point of customers. Shay Gillespie and Jared Arms created their businesses out of distinctly different sources of personal pain. Coincidentally, each had a passion and focus to improve opportunities for African-American children in the technology sector with coding and programming instruction. 

Shay, the founder and owner of “Color Coded Kids” knows the impact of technology on a global scale and from a corporate vantage place, while Jared, at just 23 years old, founded “Kylar for Kids” and entered into the IT space from a very different and unlikely point of origin. 

Shay needed a practical and accessible source for IT instruction for her young son and discovered most of the mothers she knew shared that need. Jared got started while responded to the pain of losing friends and loved ones to gun violence. Each of them stumbled onto very viable answers to a common community need—access to resources and information. Both now have not only created opportunities for themselves, they have changed the landscape for generations to come. This is not an average conversation. Join Cheryl and Christy with Shay and Jared in this episode that will change the way you view entrepreneurship, your roadmap and unforeseen business opportunities.

In this episode:
How finding the answer to the unasked questions can become your great business idea!
How important the role of a mentor and partnership can be in getting your idea off the ground.
What do you do if you don’t know all there is to know about your business, industry or market?
Where you can find great programming instruction for your kids, yourself and the elders.
How you can earn a significant living in the IT sector with unlimited opportunities.

Color Coded Kids is in the Microsoft Store!

Color Coded Kids is now offering classes in the Microsoft Store in two locations; St. Louis Galleria Mall in St. Louis, MO and The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, VA.  This 12-week course covers the basics of the computer programming language, JavaScript including introducing the concepts of variables, operators, arrays, conditional statements, loops and functions. By the end of the course, students will design their own web based video games.  

Course Schedule is as follows: 

Weeks 1-4:  Level 1: Introduction to Coding

Weeks 5-8:  Level 2: Coding Novice 

Weeks 9-12: The CODEt

Register here:



Color Coded Kids is Bringing Software Development to the Kids of Arlington, VA

Arlington, VA – February 27, 2017 - Color Coded Kids ( will launch a 12-week program designed to teach students software development in its new location in Arlington, Virginia inside the Microsoft Store located in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.  Classes begin April 29, 2017 at 1:00 pm for one hour a week. According to a report published by Microsoft, there will be 1,000,0000 unfilled software development positions in the US by 2020.  Color Coded Kids is gearing up the next generation of technology leaders to ensure there is an abundance of resources for those unfilled positions.

“Although we are an inclusive organization, our goal is to expose children to computer programming at an early age to increase the pipeline of future engineers, especially in the minority community,” said Shay Gillespie, CEO of Color Coded Kids. Research has shown introducing a programming language in elementary school will create an early passion for computer development.”

Color Coded Kids’ customized 12-week program takes kids through the fundamentals of coding, including learning how to write the programming language JavaScript with the final ability to code their own video games using their unique curriculum. The classes are taught by industry experts in the fields of software development, computer programming and software engineers.  Color Coded Kids is an interactive, fun and education classroom headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, please contact