Nylan Thomas recognized a problem. He knew low-income and homeless people in Lafayette needed resources to survive but may not know where those resources are.
Whether they are longtime Lafayette residents or just strolled in they may require assistance, that’s where his app, Lean on Me, comes in.
“We wanted to create an app that could help them and bring resources to them,” Thomas, a high school student in Lafayette, said.
The app allows anyone to donate or access resources to food banks and shelters and find resources like job fairs, medical services or bus stations.
His love for video games is what brought him to coding. Like most teenagers and children, he spent hours playing video games, and CGI and the New Vision Leadership Foundation of Acadiana fostered that passion for this year’s Congressional App Challenge. The challenge was created by the federal government to bring children and teenagers to the STEM field.
“I’ve always been interested in coding, (CGI and New Vision) gave me an opportunity to put my skills to work,” Thomas said.
The challenge was to create an app in just 10 weeks, said Anne Swanson, director of corporate social responsibility at CGI. The students worked alongside CGI mentors that walk them through the process of creating an app.
A Monday ceremony was part of a partnership between CGI and the New Vision Leadership Foundation of Acadiana, which works to bring technical expertise to underprivileged students.
“We want to introduce students to computer science to see if they like it,” Swanson said. “If they do see it as valuable, they can absolutely excel at it.”
The winner of the Congressional App Challenge in Louisiana’s 3rd District was Issac Beverly of Lafayette High School. He created NotifyPub, which lets schools send mass notifications to students and staff. CGI mentored Beverly in the past for a previous CAC event.
Other students that competed against Beverly created a variety of apps that centered on topics such as fitness, mental health, pet care and services.
Thomas sees the CAC and CGI programs as great resources to teach students valuable skills that they can utilize in the future. It certainly will come in handy for Thomas, who hopes to be a video game designer when he graduates high school.
Others included Jayden Jones, who along with his team created the Fitness App, which helps people break bad habits and shows workout tutorials and nutritional information for food. They got the idea when they realized that heart disease was the leading cause of death in Louisiana, Jones said.
“We’ve been doing (coding) since middle school,” he said. “I’ve been interested in it ever since.”
CGI believes they are sowing the seeds of students around Acadiana. If they excel, they could intern at CGI, but their portfolios through the app challenge can help them get their foot in the door when it comes to career prospects, Swanson said. Deonte Trim worked competed in the CAC years ago and now is interning part-time at CGI while in school.
“I think the Congressional App Challenge is a great opportunity for a lot of kids,” Trim said. “It’s a great place to realize I’m actually great at coding, and I do enjoy this.”
A list of the apps recognized and the students involved were:
- Fitness App: Dontaye Washington, Jayden Jones-Spoke, Cameron Brown and Damarkus Webster.
- The Foun’dation: Nya Thomas, Ja’Marco Roy and Kassidy Chevalier.
- Meowf: Iliana Fredrick, Chrystiona Anthony and Nylah Webster.
- The Cooling App: Jordyn Lyons, Ethan Breaux, Ashton Williams and JaJa Pratt.
- Lean On Me: Nylan Thomas, Julius Ballard and Bryson Broussard.