Growing up, Raafeh has always felt different. From his home life to his relationship with his parents, there was a stark cultural difference between him and his friends as he grew up in the United States and his parents didn’t.
This difference was particularly pronounced at school. “In a classroom of children, I was the odd one out,” Raafeh explained. “I had the ‘foreigner’ status as the only Pakistani kid in the room.”
Once Raafeh began the Code2College program, he felt a similar feeling: like an outsider being thrust into a new “classroom”. However, by the end of the first class, instead of feeling that same fear and apprehension, he felt relief. “I walked into my first after-school coding session at Code2College to see a room of all types of people, all smiling back at me,” shared Raafeh. “I knew then and there that I was in the right place. Through Matt’s mission to bring diversity into the Tech industry I was able to feel comfortable with my peers, and this translated into my professional career, getting me to where I am today.”
A rising Senior at partner school, Hendrickson High School, Raafeh was excited to be accepted into the Code2College program. “Not only has Code2College taught me the intricacies of coding, but it has also aided in building my professional skill set,” shared Raafeh. “I’ve built a newfound confidence in my public speaking and relationship building abilities, as well as my overall self-image. I can now go into a room of new people and not feel dread or creeping insecurities envelop me. Instead, I can now push past those irrational fears and build long-lasting relationships with co-workers and mentors that will help me grow as an individual.”
On Saturdays during the program year, Code2College corporate partners host students for professional skills workshops. Raafeh’s favorite workshop was at RetailMeNot where he developed his first elevator pitch. “When Matt told us that we would end up talking to just about 50 new individuals, my heart sank,” shared Raafeh. “It was there however where I pushed through and developed my confidence in public speaking. I learned how to speak in a professional manner and be comfortable.”
During this experience, Raafeh felt the “flinch,” as explained by author, Julien Smith, as the feeling of anxiety before doing something uncomfortable. “Rather than push away Matt, Executive Director of Code2College, helped me experience that “flinch” and to recognize my fear and speak while acknowledging what I felt,” explained Raafeh. “This helped me change my notion of public speaking from being something that is uncomfortable to something that I can do with ease.”
Through the Code2College program, Raafeh got the opportunity to interview for an internship with corporate partner, Alamo Drafthouse. He was nervous but was sure of his abilities as he spent so much time building his professional skills. “As the interview questions continued, I became more and more confident with myself. I was even able to relate to my interviewer as a soccer fan thanks to Matt sharing a tip on labeling my interests on my resume.” That connection served Raafeh well as he was offered the internship with his interviewer serving as his manager at Alamo Drafthouse!
“If I had to give advice I would like to remind everyone that we are all human and make mistakes – but it’s only through those mistakes that we learn,” noted Raafeh.
While Raafeh used to dread meeting new people, the Code2College program has now made him look forward to meeting new people. “I learn something new whenever I talk to someone new. The knowledge and experience I have gained simply by saying “Hi” is something that I would never have learned from reading a textbook,” shared Raafeh. “It has also allowed me to meet and connect with new mentors who will have a lasting impact on me for a long time to come.”
Raafeh credits Code2College with providing him with his first job as a software engineering intern. “’I’m a high school software engineering intern’ . . . those are words I never thought I would say, being a brown kid with no work experience,” Raafeh shared. “Code2College is integral for providing people of color and women a fighting chance in the Tech world.”
Code2Colege has changed Raafeh’s life and he wants to help others do the same. “I am going to advocate for Code2College to those around me as I want everyone to experience the same opportunities that I have.”
He looks forward to applying to the University of Texas at Austin in the engineering field. “I want to give back to my family for working so hard to getting me to where I am today. Thanks to them I will be a first-generation college student.”
“It is essential for anyone thinking of starting something new to take that first step,” shared Raafeh. “As long as you improve every single day, that’s what matters. Joining Code2College is that first step, which will lead you to new experiences later on.”