Tech firm presents coding workshop for Navajos

Joshua Kellogg
Marty Buck, left, works with Krieg Benally on her project Wednesday during a coding class at All Saints Church in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — An eight-week coding workshop presented by an Albuquerque-based technology company in a Farmington church will graduate its first class of students this week.

The staff at Cultivating Coders is finishing its first coding "boot camp" for 11 students at the Episcopal Church in Navajoland at All Saints Church in Farmington.

Cultivating Coders presents free coding workshops in rural areas and Native American reservations to bring web development resources to those who might not have access to workshops.

Charles Sandidge, the company’s chief technology officer and lead instructor, said the students are learning to become full-stack developers who are comfortable with front-end and back-end development of a website.

The Episcopal Church in Navajoland is partnering with Cultivating Coders to host three workshops in Farmington to train about 40 to 45 web developers, Episcopal Church in Navajoland Bishop David Bailey said. Most of the students will be hired by the Episcopal Church in Navajoland to form Cheii’s Dev Shop, a new web-development company based here at the All Saints Church.

“We recognize that computer coding right now is big and something not available on the Navajo reservation,” Bailey said.

Cultivating Coders Chief Technology Officer and class instructor Charles Sandidge talks to his students Wednesday at All Saints Church in Farmington.

Bailey said the students can train for a new career without having to travel to Albuquerque or Phoenix and don’t have to move away from the Navajo reservation for a job opportunity.

In the basement of the All Saints Church on Wednesday, the 11 students were working on their final projects that will be shown during their graduation and demo day on Friday.

Sandidge said the students learned web development languages, including Angular, CSS3, HTML5, Javascript, MySQL and PHP. He said those skills are heavily sought in the job market.

"Alongside these languages, we also work on design concepts, planning, execution, system administration and other tasks that are a part of the full stack of skills required to compete in this industry," Sandidge said.

The students were engaged in three projects — software to help manage the human resources department of the development shop, rebuilding the Episcopal Church in Navajoland’s website to allow each of the 10 congregations to post events and host message boards, and a restaurant review website called

For the past eight weeks, the students have been taking classes from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday.

Some students like 26-year-old Marty Buck said they were computer illiterate at the beginning of the course and learned how designing a web application can be like a puzzle.

“You have to fit all the pieces together,” Buck said.

Chase Walters, right, works on his project Wednesday during a coding class at All Saints Church in Farmington.

Buck, along with several other students, is living on the church grounds during the coding workshop and learned about the workshop through the church.

“It’s an amazing experience, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here,” Buck said.

She hopes to work with Cheii’s Dev Shop or Cultivated Coders following the workshop to help provide for her 3-year-old daughter Mackenzie Francisco.

“I see it as being a role model for my daughter and other female coders who want to be in the industry,” Buck said.

Aarick Lameman, 24, said he became interested in the program to help provide financial support for his family.

“It’s really a privilege. It’s an honor to do this because it’s the first of its kind,” Lameman said.

He hopes to work with Cultivated Coders to help teach similar courses in the Four Corners area.

As a Native American instructor, Buck hopes to be a role model for students and help them become comfortable in the learning environment.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.