For Compton Unified's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Specialist Larry Hood, there is no time to waste when it comes to ensuring students are equipped with marketable job skills.
When he's not teaching computer science to Compton Early College High School's inaugural class, Larry is busy implementing the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) STEM-focused curriculum at Compton's secondary schools and a new pilot program that trains middle school students to serve as IT support for classrooms.
Early college students enrolled in Larry's computer science class learn everything from block coding, programming, and Google Android app development to graphic design and animation -- all of which can lead students to the jobs of today and tomorrow.
"Students need to have an advantage when they go to college. If they have an introduction to programming, graphics, etc. now, when they get to a four-year university they'll already be familiar with it," he said.
"I want them to have high-paying jobs or to become entrepreneurs. With technology you can create a job for yourself. There are people out there starting multi-million dollar companies right out of the garage. That can happen in Compton too."
Students enrolled in Larry's class also become members of the school's Career Tech Student Organization, Compton's only chapter, which enables them to organize tech-based activities for the community, and to compete in state and national computer science competitions.
"I love this class because technology changes so much. One thing I like about it being under the PLTW curriculum is that it's constantly upgraded and modified to meet the needs of what's going on in the workforce," he said.
Larry said introducing students to programming languages gives them hands-on experience and a hand up when they go deeper into tech.
"It's important they learn the essentials. Like with teaching math, you don't drop a kid into algebra without him knowing about integers."
Last summer Larry became a certified Project Lead the Way STEM instructor through a credentialing program at Cal Poly Pomona. He also has a Master's degree from Cal State Long Beach in Occupational Studies with an emphasis in Technology and a Bachelor's in Economics with a Minor in Information Systems from Cal State Fullerton.
With his college experience in mind, Larry is committed to helping his students prepare for college and career while exploring their potential to innovate, create, and program a better future for themselves.
"We're introducing them to the Python programming language, which a lot of UC colleges use for their intro to computer science classes," he said.
"Students have been creating things in their apps using graphics from the internet, but now they're learning to create original graphics in Photoshop and incorporate them into own their mobile apps. They're learning to take pride in their work. Now they can say, 'It's mine.'"