I’m watching a student fumble with a name tag. He’s trying, nervously, to simultaneously write letters and check in with the programs team. His anxiety is endearing - he’s excited about his new roommates, excited to meet the other Fellows, and excited to rub shoulders with his mentor. He isn’t alone. Like any other conference setting, students like him mill about anxiously, drinking coffee, and poking at breakfast sandwiches. A few of them, social butterflies, chirp excitedly about the weekend ahead. Others sit quietly in groups, observant. In the air hangs an almost tangible tension as students, representing everywhere from California to Brazil, try to envision the roller-coaster experience ahead of them.

At ten a.m. sharp, the facilitators assemble their flock. This is Welcome Weekend.

Thirty-six Fellows and thirty-three mentors joined our CODE2040 team last Friday and Saturday for Welcome Weekend. As an all-purpose Fellows program boot camp/orientation/celebration, Welcome Weekend brought the cohort and mentors together, laying the framework for healthy mentor/mentee relationships in the next seven weeks and beyond. The weekend, a expedition into topics like active listening and time management, was an opportunity for students to build their toolkit with experiences from alumni and mentors alike. Tournament style bouts of rock paper scissors accompanied deep conversations about the branding of Black and Latino/a engineers in tech, while alliterative name games opened doors to self-reflection and self-care.

Above all, Welcome Weekend was built and executed as communion. The atmosphere in workshops was equal parts intellectual and playful, giving students an opportunity to break bread over topics that usually stay off the table. Candid conversations about biases, fears, and newfound optimism erupted throughout the day, with each admission garnering an outpouring of support.

No doubt, our Fellows talked tech. They laughed about translating code to non-techies and writing programs that flooded their friends’ computers with pictures of cats. Still, at the core of their interactions was a homecoming - an entrance into a community that many admitted they had missed all their lives.

Our team is humbled to help build that community. You can follow our Fellows this summer on our twitter list and meet them all here.