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Interface Web School graduation honors students for accomplishments, perseverance

OMAHA – Twenty-one Interface Web School students, surrounded by family and friends and showered with praise from their instructors, were honored at a celebration Thursday night for completing their Fall 2018 coding classes.

The graduation took place at the AIM Exchange Building at 19th and Harney streets in downtown Omaha.

The students got certificates of completion for their work in Foundations of Web Development and COBOL programming courses. Three students who are nearing completion in their Microsoft .NET class were also recognized.

Kathryn Russell was one of six students in her Foundations of Web Development course. She had previously taken some self-taught online classes, but said there were advantages to the classroom setting Interface provided.

“It was nice to get some formal training through the class and realize, ‘oh that’s what they actually meant by doing that,’ where I was kind of doing a ‘broken’ method that still kind of worked, but was technically garbage,” she laughed.

(Interface graduate Kathryn Russell, her partner Blaine Red Ear Horse, and their 6-month old daughter, Zintkala Cik’ala (Little Bird).)

Before each student received his or her certificate, Interface instructors Kent Smotherman, Karen Denholm, Christian Burk and Joel Rainear-Wills spoke of their hard work and accomplishments.

“They are awesome students and I am grateful for them,” said Rainear-Wills, Interface’s .NET instructor.

The instructors praised the students for their perseverance, artistic ability, learning a “developer mindset” and “outstanding” work.

“It’s like going from crawling to running a 5K,” Burk said of the 10-week Foundations course.

Russell said the one-on-one attention she received from Burk made a big difference in her learning experience.

“He was really exciting and really engaging,” said Russell. “It was really nice to have him be passionate and curious, and I mean, he was a teacher, but at the same time he was a student for us too, so it was a really cool relationship. And that was beyond what I expected.”

(The graduation celebration took place on the historic Trading Floor of the AIM Exchange Building. Interface Director Ellen Myer addressed the graduates, and their friends and families.)

Pam Kryss, a software development manager and Scrum master at CSG International, said she came to the ceremony to support Interface’s mission of helping non-traditional students break into tech professions.

“Me personally, I don’t look as closely at the education portion of a resume as I will review what their experience has been and what their skills are, because a lot of people are self-taught, and some people can’t afford a four-year university either. So it’s great I was made aware of this untapped talent pool for CSG,” she said.

Kryss described how her organization had a developer leave last October, and said it took until this past May to replace that person.

“It is actually really difficult. It is incredibly difficult to get tech talent,” she said. “I plan on continuing to promote the AIM Interface School. I’ve been a huge proponent of it ever since I found out about it. I’ve reached out to our HR, our recruiter and my entire organization to make them aware of it.”

Russell, whose partner is Lakota, says she hopes to eventually help bring tech training opportunities to the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“The tech world needs us. They need women, they need people of color, they need diversity,” says Russell. “And I think having Interface be a part of that, connecting businesses with different types of people who aren’t your traditional four-year students — they’re missing out on a lot of tech talent.”

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For more information about Interface Web School, visit aiminterfaceschool.com