WeCode KC teams up with KC STEM Alliance for new location

Two adult mentors smile warmly as three young people work at computers in a room painted in a bright blue.

Kansas City, MO—WeCode KC’s new home at 4825 Troost in Kansas City places the rapidly growing nonprofit right where co-founder Tammy Buckner wants it to be—in a highly visible and accessible location where her team can continue teaching young people tech skills that can change their lives.

Co-locating with the KC STEM Alliance on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus offers WeCode KC room to grow and synergies that can propel new programming, including a new FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team.

Since its formal launch in spring of 2019, WeCode KC has grown week after week. What started with 50 to 60 kids in a room learning basic coding programs like Scratch has expanded into a full pipeline of tech learning opportunities serving ages 7 and up. And the nonprofit with a tech startup culture doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

Buckner says her team aims to add 50 to 100 high school students by the end of the year and they need a place where students will feel welcome, wanted and comfortable.

“We’re more than a coding program,” Buckner says. “We meet kids where they are. They see us as mentors, as an extended family. And we want a space that feels like it belongs to them.”

The new location gives WeCode KC room to continue building its offerings, which range from WeCode Futures (teaching ages 7 to 17 specific programs from Scratch to Python and beyond) to WeCode Careers, where students build websites for small businesses and nonprofits. Buckner says new programming may include expanding WeCode into the after-school time frame and re-introducing online programming initiated during the pandemic using a hybrid model. This summer the team launched a new FIRST Tech Challenge robotics program.

Tammy Buckner

Tammy Buckner

The number of young people who need these types of opportunities is high, Buckner says, and it will take all types of STEM education programs to reach them.

“We need more. We need all of us. We’re doing this together,” she says. “We’re never in competition with another program. We’re in competition with ourselves because we know these kids need more of this. We’re focusing on solutions, and we know tech skills give hope.”

KC STEM Alliance Executive Director Martha McCabe says co-locating with WeCode KC will set the stage for even bigger collaborations down the road, perhaps one day leading to a STEM corridor running all along Troost Avenue.

“Just imagine an even bigger education/innovation space where like-minded organizations could co-locate and collaborate; where kids feel safe and welcome and know they belong, with mentors who look like them,” McCabe says. “And where families can explore and understand the opportunities STEM can bring to their students.”

About the KC STEM Alliance

KC STEM Alliance is a collaborative network of educators, business partners and organizations that inspires interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers to generate a robust workforce of related professionals in the greater Kansas City region.

In 2015, the KC STEM Alliance and supporters opened the KC Engineering Zone (or KC EZ) at 4825 Troost Ave. to offer a safe and supportive work space for students in Kansas City’s urban core. In 2020, the organization expanded its offices and added community meeting spaces. Today, four high school robotics teams build in the KC EZ and multiple organizations use the community meeting spaces to collaborate and advance their work.

About WeCode KC

WeCode KC’s mission is to give youth the opportunity to learn technology concepts, and leadership skills; creating a pipeline of future-ready professionals through project-based learning and innovative programs.

WeCode KC serves the urban core of Kansas City, exposing youth to various computer science concepts because of its belief that every child, no matter their zip code or their family’s financial status, should have the opportunity to learn to code.

Photo credit: Nonprofit Connect video created for the 2023 Awards Celebration, where Tammy Buckner and WeCode KC received the Excellence in Impact Award, Small Division