Local teens take long view on Ukraine’s future

ARLINGTON, Mass. — Back in the virtual learning days, Arlington High School student Robbie Khazan came up with an idea – why not teach coding to kids?

“Coding is a very employable skill,” Khazan said. “There’s lots of demand and very little supply. There just aren’t enough coders.”

And thus, in the fall of 2020, Kiddo Byte was founded – which took on as its mission getting kids excited about computer science, Khazan said.

Coders basically write the instructions that computers follow – and Kiddo Byte has focused on offering its classes to kids in underserved communities locally,

But recently, the organization branched out – to a place thousands of miles away. That is thanks in large part to Gosha Lubashev, who, along with his sister Mira, are Kiddo Byte instructors.

“I have parents who are both from Ukraine,” said Lubashev, an Arlington High School junior, “And they still have so many friends and schoolmates who are still back there.”

Kiddo Byte is focusing on Ukrainians who are not exactly still back there, but are displaced. Specifically, the group is working with orphanages in Poland to teach coding to refugee kids.

Mira Lubashev conducts one Zoom class a week with the Ukrainian children. She is teaching them a programming language called Scratch.

“I can help these kids who have had their homes destroyed, who can’t see their family or their friends,” she said. “And are really living in such a terrible situation. To be able to help them and help them find some joy in this horrible time, it just feels so good.”

Mira, a freshman at Arlington High, said learning Scratch gives the Ukrainian kids something beyond a computer skill.

“These coding classes allow them to be creative in a time where they really don’t have many outlets for their creativity,” she said.

It’s projected that more jobs in the future will require coding skills – and those who have them will be that much more valuable to employers. And Khazan said coding enhances another skill needed in the workplace.

“It really gets the mind going,” he said. “It gets critical thinking going, which is a super important skill nowadays. The more coders that they have in Ukraine, the better suited they’ll be to rebuild.”

Khazan developed a passion for coding as a kid. This fall, the recent Arlington High graduate will be attending MIT to study mechanical engineering.

This summer, Kiddo Byte is focusing its efforts to get more computers into the hands of Ukrainian kids in those orphanages – and is raising funds to make that happen. To donate, go to https://kiddobyte.org/donate

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