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Library prepares teen for college and career in software engineering

Oscar Acevedo knows he wants to be a software engineer. He wants to program and create his own video games and someday start his own video game company.

Although only a college freshman, Oscar is well on his way to his goal. He’s started studying computer science as a freshman at UC San Diego and entered college having already earned college programming credits and with a Java programming certificate under his belt. He also has experience tutoring teens and completed a paid internship at a local software engineering firm.

The Library has helped him on every step of this journey.

Legler Benbough Teen IDEA Lab Manager and Youth Service Librarian Uyen Tran has worked with Oscar for several years and seen his interest in programming grow. — Uyen Tran and Oscar Acevedo

Oscar grew up in Valencia Park and attended four years at e3 Civic High, the high school housed at the Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common. As a high school freshman, Oscar participated in an after-school robotics program with some friends in the Library’s 3rd floor Innovation Lab.

“The people around me, my friends, helped motivate me to participate. We did it as a group.”

Oscar enjoyed the program. Soon after, he enrolled in a weekly programming class at the Library taught by instructors with the League of Amazing Programmers. For four years, Oscar attended Saturday classes at the Library that prepared him for the Java programming certificate exam.

Oscar said classes were difficult. “It was a challenge. With the instructors’ help, you realize you can do it. And once you get it, you want to do it again and again.” It was in these classes, Oscar more clearly saw his future in software and game design.

At the end of the first year, students were asked to program their own video games. Oscar produced a two-player game like the classic Tron video game and premiered it at a project presentation. Oscar was proud he’d achieved his goal of making a game and was gratified to see others enjoy it.

To that point, Oscar said his parents did not really know why he spent so much time at the Library. Oscar’s parents attended the game presentation, saw Oscar’s game and understood the value of what he was learning at the Library.

In his junior year, Oscar participated in a Library NExT software engineering class and earned college credits. At the end of that year, he began volunteering every weekend at the Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library tutoring teens in the Legler Benbough IDEA Lab who were learning to program.

“I was glad to share my experiences and to motivate others,” he said.

The summer before his senior year, the League of Amazing Programmers helped Oscar secure a paid internship with a San Diego software firm where he shadowed engineers and learned how the business ran.

Oscar believes these experiences and accomplishments made possible through the Library made him more competitive when applying for college. And, he feels they made him a better student and communicator.

“I’m glad the Library helped me build on my love of video games to make it my focus in school and what will be my career,” Oscar said.