View as Webpage • February 9, 2023

For immediate release

Middle Schoolers Becoming Software Designers while Supporting Younger Students 

Students Pilot IDRA’s New VisionCoders Course

(San Antonio • February 9, 2023) San Antonio middle school students who are in at-risk situations are becoming the next generation of software coders through IDRA’s innovative project, VisionCoders™. In the new course, eighth graders in two South San Antonio ISD schools are piloting the IDRA VisionCoders class to create educational games for prekindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students.

“VisionCoders students mentor their elementary buddies,” said Stephanie Garcia, VisionCoders director. “We have witnessed how this experience is already strengthening student perceptions of self and school, as well as their sense of belonging.”

This project targets high-need students with limited computer science opportunities. In the next school year, the program will expand to 12 schools, serving 1,400 eighth-grade students in at-risk situations from seven school districts where fewer than 1% of students take a computer science class.

IDRA is partnering with Palo Alto College and Athens Elementary School this year as our participating buddy campuses within South San Antonio ISD. Each month, VisionCoders students build educational game prototypes to enhance their buddy’s math and literacy skills.

Today’s fastest-growing careers are tech-driven, from healthcare to telecommunications to aerospace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing and projects that computer science research jobs alone will increase 19% by 2026.

Using asset-based approaches to STEM-Computer Science education VisionCoders is strongly aligned with the philosophical foundation and tenets of IDRA’s highly successful Valued Youth Partnership program. Both programs build in opportunities for inquiry and outside experiences that are exemplary practices for social-emotional learning and student engagement.

Three embedded components in the VisionCoders program include educational field trips, mentorship by STEM professionals and college students, and access to paid summer internships. Educators trained by IDRA teach block programming and video game design through Scratch and platforms.

The project was kick-started by a $3.89 million, five-year Education, Innovation and Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

A VisionCoders student from Dwight Middle School leading his Athens Elementary School buddy through a game programmed especially for him.

Media Contact: Thomas Marshall III, M.Ed., IDRA Policy Communications Strategist (

Learn More About VisionCoders

During the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years, we will expand to 12 middle school campuses participating in the VisionCoders program. Participating school districts include East Central, Edgewood, Harlandale, Somerset, South San Antonio, Southside and Southwest ISDs. Depending on enrollment numbers, we are open to including other districts.

If you or someone you know in these districts is interested in joining IDRA’s VisionCoders program, please share this story with them and have them contact VisionCoders director, Dr. Stephanie Garcia at

VisionCoders Info Online

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IDRA is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to achieve equal educational opportunity through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college.  

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