PENDLETON — Cameron Andrade said he will no longer be defined by his mistakes.
“It’s going to give me a new chance at a life that I would not have had before,” he said. “It will help me get where I want to be in life and the job I wanted to have when I got older.”
Andrade, 17, is an inmate at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. Originally from Terre Haute, he is one of 12 students enrolled in Indiana’s first coding program for incarcerated juveniles called The Last Mile.
“I want to be a software engineer,” said Andrade. “I’m excited to learn how coding works and what’s behind it and how to make a website app.”
According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for a software engineer is $107,261, based on 46,521 salaries submitted anonymously to Indeed by software engineer employees, users, and collected from past and present job advertisements on Indeed.com in the past 36 months.
On Tuesday, Google.org announced it was providing a $2 million grant to The Last Mile, a nonprofit founded in 2010 at San Quentin State Prison in California, so more inmates like Andrade can learn technology and business skills while incarcerated.
The grant will be used by the organization to educate and certify 525 incarcerated youth, women and men for the next two years in Indiana, Oklahoma and Kansas.
“By expanding access to computer science education to people who are behind bars, The Last Mile helps learners return to their communities with tangible skills to pursue a career in technology,” said Justin Steele, head of Americas for Google.org.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, executives and board members from The Last Mile including MC Hammer and Sway Calloway, along with representatives from Google, announced the funding at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility.
Beverly Parenti, executive director of The Last Mile, said the idea for the program began the night her husband came home late from dinner. She said he had been to visit the San Quentin State Prison and was excited about creating a program to help people find gainful employment after being incarcerated.
She said the program gives participants hope.
Holcomb said The Last Mile is a life-changing program and helps the inmates through the first mile of the rest of their new lives.
“It works,” he said. “Having the skill set to meet the demands on the outside is the difference between returning or not. This program has a zero percent recidivism rate.”
He said if participants are willing to stay focused and take advantage of the program, “they’re going to be able to determine their own destiny.”
“It’s not just another program. So every person that goes out there and gets a job that they’re passionate about — number one, that’s a good thing, but then that means we can help others more. We are just as anxious as they are to make sure more people have access to this course-correcting chapter in their lives.”
Jalen Seider, 17, of South Bend is also a participant in The Last Mile at the Pendleton correctional facility. He is already planning how he can use the training from the program to change not only his life, but that of his family.
“Back home, my dad he buys houses, renovates them and then rents them out to people,” he said. “A big thing I would like to do is to be able to put my dad out there and help to promote him and make a website for him. Let people know about his business.”