How CodeHouse is Using Big Tech Money to Help HBCU Students


  • The nonprofit CodeHouse has received $3.4 million from tech companies to help prepare HBCU students for a career in the tech industry. 
  • It has also received $150,000 for a program that exposes high school students to tech and the pipeline that exists from HBCUs to the industry. 
  • CodeHouse partners include PayPal, Google, Microsoft and Twitter.

For years, particularly after 2020, tech companies have put an increased focus on diversifying their ranks. The latest fruits of some of those efforts could be found at The Gathering Spot on a sunny July day when 43 incoming HBCU students descended on Atlanta as part of the second cohort of the CodeHouse Scholars Initiative, aimed at supporting them in their burgeoning tech careers.

“We knew that there’s a lot of work that needed to be done when it came to students transitioning into college and getting them early exposure and access to skill building to be prepared for the tech industry,” Ernest Holmes, President and Co-Founder of the nonprofit CodeHouse, told The Plug.

Through CodeHouse, students attend a month-long program the summer before their freshman year to help bridge the transition from high school to college, receive up to $20,000 in scholarships over their undergraduate career, one-on-one mentorship, professional development and internship opportunities from the tech companies that partner with the initiative.

To kick off the start of the summer bridge program, students and their families flew into Atlanta for an opening ceremony at The Gathering Spot that featured guest speakers from two of the companies that have made the program possible, Kim Jenkins, PayPal’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, and Reggie McKnight, Google’s Global Head of Social Impact. 

“I had a lot of the partners come just so the students can really see this is not just Ernest, [fellow co-founders] Jaycee [Holmes], Tavis [Thompson], the CodeHouse team, that there’s a community around you, supporting you, wanting you to win and cheering you on,” Holmes, who is also a technical program manager at Google and a Morehouse College alum, said.

Surrounding the soon-to-be HBCU freshmen with ample support is the point of the CodeHouse Scholars Initiative. The nonprofit has received at least $3.4 million from its partners PayPal and Google as well as Microsoft, UKG, Twitter and LiveRamp for the initiative. 

In 2021, CodeHouse hosted its first cohort of more than 25 students from the schools at the Atlanta University Center — Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse and Spelman College. This year, they have also expanded to Howard University and North Carolina A&T State University after Google gave CodeHouse a $1 million grant.

CodeHouse also hosts a Tech Exposure Day, an event where high school students are exposed to tech industry professionals and recruiters from some of the biggest tech companies. The nonprofit has received around $150,000 from its partners for this programming for students to get exposed to the tech industry, HBCUs and the pipeline that exists from HBCUs to the industry. 

From Google intern to engineer 

As a current Google employee himself, Holmes knows firsthand the challenges and rewards that can come with a career in tech.

“Full circles are like a big thing in my life right now,” Holmes said, reflecting on the journey that landed him at the tech giant.

As a freshman at Morehouse, Holmes took an intro to computer science class taught by a full-time Google employee who for that semester was a professor at the school through the company’s Google in Residence (GIR) program. In this class, Holmes learned about and prepared for an internship with the tech company, which he eventually landed after his first year.

After graduating in 2019, Holmes headed to Oakland as a full-time Google software engineer. When the application for the GIR program came around, he put his name in the ring.

“Next thing I knew, I was the Google in Residence professor at Morehouse’s campus this last fall. So I taught intro to computer science to all the freshmen and sophomores,” he said.

Holmes knows that helping HBCU students get into the tech industry is bigger than just getting them a cool internship or an impressive name on their resumé.

“A kid from Morehouse getting an internship or full-time role at Google is big for them, but that’s big for their household, for their family,” Holmes said.  

“A lot of Black and brown students or people in general have that burden of taking care of their families as well,” he said. “So that’s the impact that we’ve been able to see happen with the work that we’re doing, whether internally at Google or even externally with CodeHouse, and I think that’s what makes this all the more meaningful for me.”

Mirtha Donastorg

Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.