A few months ago a new contact popped up on my Twitter feed, his name is Sirrele. I was captivated by the story of this young man, by his courage and his determination in making a difference in somebody’s life.

Sirrele’s life wasn’t an easy one. He was removed from his mother’s care before he was 2 and placed in the system. The placement became an extremely abusive environment that continued until he was in junior high school. After trying to protect his younger brother from abuse, he was placed in a juvenile detention center, then into a multiple group homes. He left one of the group homes to live on his own for 4 months at the age of 14. Then had an opportunity to reconcile with his mother in Sacramento. In Sacramento, he met two individuals that changed his life, Charles Kidd and Ed Manansala, who he now considers his dads. It was through their unconditional love and mentorship that helped change his trajectory in life.

You can watch him talk about his life story, and about {F}oster, his new project for children in care.

Sirrele has two big passions. One of them is helping children in foster care. At the age of 15, he began his advocacy for foster youth to help provide a voice to a community that needs it the most. His other passion is software engineering. He is the founder of {F}OSTER, a virtual free-of-charge coding mentoring program for foster youth ages 14-24.

Sirrele hopes to create a safe space for foster youth in the competitive world of computer programming. He knows first-hand that without a humble, responsive, sincere mentor, many youths–especially foster youth–can feel alone without a shoulder to lean on. {F}OSTER is that shoulder! {F}OSTER is that support system!



Sirrele agreed to a short interview. Here’s what he told us.

Where the idea of {F}oster comes from?

I wanted to combine both of my passions, Foster Care and Software Development in a way that I could give back in an impactful way. Mentorship and programming have saved my life and I want other foster youth to experience the same thing.

How far into the project are you?

We are starting the actual pairing of Foster Youth and programmers in May 2018 (foster care awareness month). In the meantime, we are actively developing partnerships and internal processes to ensure that mentors and mentees have the best experience. My main goal is to get as many foster youth and programmers as possible!

Have you collected any material to use as reference?

Our mentors will be assisting mentees in a Code Academy course of their choosing. Each week they will use Discord, which is like Skype on steroids, to communicate with each other. The commitment is an hour, however, we do encourage that they spend more time together if possible. Before we pair the mentors, we will have training so that the mentors get a better understanding of the community they are going to be serving.

What reaction have you had so far?

Everyone has been extremely supportive! I have connected with 14+ organizations (school districts, foster care organisations, and tech companies) and plan to grow our partnerships. There are many youth across the states that are wanting to be mentored. Programmers are seeing this as an opportunity to get away from there daily code and give back.

What kind of commitment is required of programmers who want to join the initiative? Can small groups of programmers offer tutoring for the same child?

Right now we are looking at a week commitment. However, I have been posed this question a lot, and even more so by programmers. I really want to think about this a little more. I really see the value of one-on-one mentorships. I don’t know how the mentees will deal will having too many mentors that may be less involved.

What kind of technologies are kids more interested in? (general programming, web programming, hardware automation, etc)

I think it’s hard to answer this. Most people getting into programming do not have a full conception of all the options. My goal is to have the mentors introduce them to those options and pair them with a programmer in a field that they find interesting.

What kind of help do you need to promote {F}oster?

I would like AS MUCH help as possible! I would like to be in the position that there are too many youth or programmers interested! Any support to help get as many programmers and foster youth would be really appreciated!

How can people interested in the project get in contact with you?

I can be found on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to hear from people interested in the project.

I hope you believe this project as much as I do Please, add Sirrele to your contacts, and help spread the voice about this worthy initiative.

{F}oster is accepting applications for mentors and mentees! If this sounds interesting, please fill out this online form!
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