Monse's Story: Combining Social Justice with Coding in Google's Code Next Program
When you combine social justice, activism and coding, what do you get? Monse Franco—an Oakland, California, native and a member of Google’s Code Next program.
About a year ago, Monse joined Code Next Oakland with an interest in learning about coding, the maker world, and being a Latinx woman interested in technology. So, she made her way over to Code Next’s Fruitvale lab, and took part in Saturday trainings on HTML/CSS, Android development, and more.
Monse is a high school student sho is wise beyond her years. She is using her knowledge of computer science to change the conversation about undocumented immigrants. With this work, she’s paving the way for Latina engineers everywhere to get involved in the tech world and social justice spaces.
Hear more about Monse’s journey in this Q&A. Scroll down to check out a video from 2017 and hear from Monse on her goals for the future.
Thanks for sitting down with us, Monse. So give us a little intro—who are you?
I think “who am I” is a little bit of a hard question, because I'm so young, and it's a little bit hard to respond. But here’s what I’ve got—I'm a young girl who lives in Oakland who's trying to better herself and become someone in life.
Tell us a bit about your interest in social justice, which is something the Code Next Oakland coaches say you’ve been passionate about for years.
Everything that I am and why I care so much about the topic of immigration and politics is because my father was deported. Because of that, I struggled a lot in getting to know and understand the prison system, and how deportation works in the United States.
Even though my brother and I speak English, my mom does not. I'm not undocumented because I was born here, but I see the way that we—the Latino/Hispanic population—are looked at, how we are projected to our community and our society. And that’s not a way that I want to be looked at.
One Code Next coach said that she could see you becoming mayor someday! Think that will happen?
I’m not sure—maybe! Or maybe an engineer. We’ll see.
You’ve been a part of Code Next now for more than a year now. What’s your experience been like in the program learning about computer science?
Code Next shows you another way of living. I've learned about companies... I've learned about what it is to be an engineer... I've learned about coding... I've learned about what it means to actually make it in a field and what it actually looks like to succeed. I love that the program brings teachers in to show you what success is.
As I go through this program and I learn how to code, I see the bridges start to connect and start to make sense. An engineer is someone who is creative, someone who builds on their ideas. I'm learning about the various pathways out there, and how your work can connect with other people.
How is it different from learning in school?
Code Next brings students together from different schools, people that you would have never met before. They bring other students that have perspectives and backgrounds like you—they look like you, they talk like you. And we're all looking for the same things—we all want to succeed.
Why is that important to you? Why is it central to the activism you do? And on a larger scale, why do you think that’s important to your generation as a whole?
Especially in my generation, I feel that apps have taken on such a big role in our daily lives in terms of what we do, how we do it, who we hang out with, and how we interact with one another. Now, I can create those apps. Now, I can step up and send a message out, using the technological skills I have developed.
My family is new to all of this, and they don't really understand exactly what I'm doing... but I know that when they see the name “Google” and when they meet my teachers, they feel a sense of pride that I'm a part of a good program, and happy that I’m learning these skills.