Aaron Gordon Excited About Growth of {CodeOrlando}

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - During the summer of 2019, Aaron Gordon had a front row seat to watch groups of talented teenage students display their cutting-edge technology recipes at what was he and his family’s inaugural {CodeOrlando} camp graduation ceremony.

It was exactly what the 6-foot-9 Orlando Magic forward envisioned and hoped for when they first devised the STEM education program. Not only did the students, ambitious like Gordon was when he was growing up in Northern California, blow him away with their ingenuity, but they showed him that there is a hunger for this academic discipline among today’s youth.

Now in 2021, the aspirations Gordon has to expand this curriculum to more students is gaining steam.

On Friday, Feb. 19, the Gordon Family Giving Foundation announced they have partnered with the University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation and Education (CCIE) to donate $300,000 to {CodeOrlando} and host the program on the UCF Downtown campus each summer through 2025.

“We’re looking to give opportunity to kids that don’t necessarily have the opportunity,” Gordon said. “So much potential, just untapped potential in the Central Florida area and we’re just looking to give more kids a platform to not only grow and experience new ways of learning and new ways of thinking, but to also help them just with some of the resources that they are not accustomed to getting. So to be able to partner with UCF, especially for the next five years, we just wanted to make sure that it was something that lasted, something we can build upon.”

The foundation’s generous philanthropic commitment will support the development of the program, which provides high-tech educational opportunities for underserved and underrepresented Orlando high school students, and also be used to award scholarships to program mentors. The program is free to students and based on need.

{CodeOrlando} students participate in a series of hands-on visits to Orlando based companies and organizations that design, develop and use cutting-edge technologies, especially those that help better the world.

Visits include working with specific technologies, touring engineering sites and having individual meetings with employees who share similar demographic backgrounds and circumstances. Students intern at these organizations and create projects using coding tools. The foundation provides scholarships, ongoing support and opportunities for every {CodeOrlando} student through college, to reach their educational goals.

“We look forward to seeing 8th-12th graders jump into STEM learning through participation in the GF2 Coding Camp, and in the important long-term follow up with mentors that it will provide. The College of Community Innovation and Education is excited and fortunate to partner with the Gordon Family Foundation to offer this opportunity,” said Pamela "Sissi" Carroll, Ed.D., professor and dean, UCF College of Community Innovation and Education, and Mildred W. Coyle Eminent Scholar and Endowed Professor of Education.

Unlocking one’s talents, Gordon believes, requires innovative and artistic thinking, which he himself has used and benefitted from throughout his professional journey.

This mindset was instilled in him at an early age by his family, and in particular his mother, Shelly Davis Gordon, a computer scientist who has helped spearhead {CodeOrlando} since its inception in 2018. For 35 years she worked in the semiconductor industry and like her son is extremely passionate about helping youth reach their full potential.

“She’s a superstar,” the Magic’s 25-year-old said. “She is the heart of the organization. She’s what makes it tick. The kids love her. She’s like a second mom to all those kids. She’s what makes it go. She’s the MVP of {CodeOrlando}. None of this would have been possible for me to accomplish without her. She’s just incredibly bright, dedicated, diligent and just has a huge heart. She knows the importance of education and creating opportunities for these kids.”

Gordon still remembers as a child when his mother would bring home computer components and he would help break them down to find microchips and then reassemble them.

“It’s like a whole different language,” he said. “What we would do is code little robots and kind of give them small directions on whether to go forward or whether to go backwards or run a course. But, I think people overlook how much coding goes into everyday life, whether it be video games, even in this app that we are using (Zoom). A lot of coding just goes into what makes the world tick. So, it’s the future and the present really because social distancing is such a big thing and being able to work remotely is very important and with coding you’re able to work remotely. I strongly encourage all parents to make sure that their kids are getting into some kind of STEM program.”

It’s especially meaningful for Gordon, who is in his seventh season with the Magic, to be able to provide these academic resources to kids in the Orlando area, a place he’s fallen in love with and become embedded in since first arriving in 2014.

“It’s just been love since the moment I stepped in the city,” he said. “I also know that it’s an untapped market. Coming from San Jose and then seeing some of the tech in Orlando, it’s just a little behind actually, respectfully. There are huge opportunities for some of the kids to create pathways for themselves in the tech field.”