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Many years ago, Northwestern University alums Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee were frustrated with their jobs. Wanting to do work that was fulfilling, they decided they no longer wanted to look at work as a means to enjoy their lives outside of it, so they chose to learn how to code after identifying meaningful problems that could be solved using technology. Sales-Griffin and McGee spent a year teaching themselves how to build software by reading books, watching online lectures, and doing exercises. In 2011, they founded The Starter League to teach others how to code, design, and build web apps.

Located in Chicago’s 1871 co-working center, The Starter League offers beginner-focused, three-month programs about HTML and CSS, JavaScript, web development, visual design, and user experience design. Instructors include Jeff Cohen, Raghu Betina, Mig Reyes of 37signals, and Carolyn Chandler of Manifest Digital. The Starter League has partnered with renowned web app company 37signals to offer workshops, classes, and mentorship to students, as well as to build web apps that improve learning results. At The Starter League, students can be paired one-to-one with a mentor from a passionate community of entrepreneurs, designers, and developers. They also receive guidance from at-large mentors and alumni in areas such as entrepreneurship and law, among others.

Since its inception, The Starter League has taught more than 600 students from around the world how to code and design software. In addition, The Starter League has worked with public schools, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In mid-2013, McGee and Sales-Griffin launched Starter School, a full-time, nine-month program that combines The Starter League’s design and programming courses with product development and entrepreneurship classes. Starter School aims to help people who want to build software and start companies that change the world turn their dreams into reality.

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