Indian-American founder of ‘Young Gates’ let’s kids experience coding firsthand

Ritu Jha-

Gaurika Gupta, a software engineer by profession, came to the US like many spouses on an H4 dependent visa, enrolled herself in computer science courses to enhance her knowledge, worked at corporate IT companies, was doing pretty well in her career, but she felt something was missing. Not sure what, until she started helping young school children when her kids’ friends’ mother would ask.

A resident of Fremont in California, Gupta, founder of Young Gates, which offers interactive online programming lessons to children from elementary to high school.

During an interview with indica, Gupta shared why she left her job and took on her business venture full time.

“I felt I had a passion for teaching,” said Gupta, who used to volunteer at the school library since her children were in elementary school.

It was at school mothers would ask her to help their children who wanted to learn HTML or even children enrolled in AP Computer Science classes.

Parents would say the classes being provided elsewhere are very highly priced and even with the claim of real programming classes don’t give real coding to the kids.

“I realized there is a requirement for creating classes for computer sciences for children, “ said Gupta, who is of a view that computers should be part of the regular curriculum in elementary school just like History or any other subject, a view she says many parents share.

And given COVID-19 pandemic, it should be an eye opener, since classes are all online.

She said she’s surprised to see that even though schools and educational professionals encourage STEM education, they are not providing it in school.

After helping by volunteering to meet the growing demand from parents, in 2017 she decided to open Young Gates.

“I got confidence after getting a lot of request from parents… yes, that gave me confidence to leave my job,” said Gupta.

Over time, Gupta said, she has created a program which has catered to elementary, middle school and high school students, giving exposure to different concepts. So that they understand what really programming is all about and, based on the exposure to coding, can form an opinion on whether they want to further pursue programming.

But all this required planning and a curriculum that suits the elementary and AP computer classes for kids and, above all, the price they could afford.

“Our prices are very less than compared to the market price. Just like $90 for a month and for four classes. If they want to stop in between they can,” said Gupta, adding she does not want to give false hope to parents nor block them for 6 months.

Students can go month by month, and the motive is not to lock students but for them to like the experience of programming and get exposure to this field.

As most of her students are high schoolers, Gupta said, it’s because schools don’t have proper computer labs, and most are not managed by the school administration but rather by parent associations.

When asked where she hosts her classes, she said that at first as word of mouth spread about her instruction, she held classes at her home, and then collaborated with various after-school programs offered by Day Care in the Fremont and Irvington areas.

“The impression people got that I teach coding and started getting classes, and I noticed people actually started coming,” said Gupta. “Slowly, I picked one and then developed curriculum and then I saw the momentum and worked on more.”

Explaining further, she said that in the past few years she has focused on developing the curriculum and teaching the appropriate concepts according to the age group.

“It’s been a journey in past two-three years,” said Gupta, taking a pause and adding “Volunteering gives you a real idea and feeling what people are actually looking for.”

She said her children were small, so she wasn’t very much aware what high school kids are looking for or how they are taught in classes.

Many kids are opting for it because their parents are asking them, and there are many students who are not enrolling in it because they have no exposure to it.

Giving an example of one of her students, she said, she had a student who planned to go for Bio-technology only because she felt computer science is not her cup of tea. She has never done programming. She was into Lego robotics but not into real programming. But after she completed the programming classes at Young Gates, she decided to study computer science and at present is a student at Santa Cruz University in California.

Gupta said today technology is in every field, even if you are not planning to join computer science you know if you know how the technology works you can apply it in anything. Even doctors are using machines. automation and Robots. So, learning would enable and help them to easily understand how technology works.

Stressing again the need that school should have a structured curriculum and should have a computer lab from elementary school onward and have specific funds allocated, she said.

“My impression about kids are potential lies in the kids what we teach them. It has a big impact on them,” Gupta said, adding she sees the struggle her high schoolers go through.

When asked about her summer camps, she said it’s a structured one-week program each and catered for beginners with different subject’s camp attendees can explore: Python, Java, game-making, website-building, Rubik, and camp includes mental challenges such as math calculations every day for two hours. The idea is if they like the course and subjects then they can continue on in regular classes.

The summer camps are going to start in the last week of May through the end of July. There are five teachers, and they are all in computer science. [Summer camp prices are different from the regular classes].

Recalling how she feels leaving behind the corporate life, she said, “I never knew just helping would turn out to be my passion.”

She said she has enrolled at the Stanford Entrepreneurship program to learn more about how to run a business as she wants to create a lot of visibility and traction.

“Earlier I never thought about it seriously as I am now,” said Gupta, who loves and feels more confident when parents and her students show their trust in her and her teaching.