Natalie Vargas, 22, is a central-city success story. Over a year ago, she was accepted into the Inner-City Computer Stars (i.c.stars) training program where she spent an intense 16 weeks in technology training. Recognizing the need for greater diversity in the tech sector, i.c.stars helps companies fill the growing number of tech job openings. There is no tuition fee.
Program participants learn by building web-based applications to solve client problems. They also learn computer coding, business, and leadership instruction. For the i.c.stars program participants, corporate sponsors provide on-the-job experience and assistance in career goals. Two years ago, Molson Coors…
But let Natalie Vargas tell the story.
Tell me about your background, the neighborhood you grew up in, schools you attended, and your parents.
I grew up on the southside on West Becher not far from Historic Mitchell Street. I still live in that home with my family. I went to Forest Home Elementary, Wedgewood Middle School, and to Ronald Reagan High School. My parents are immigrants from Mexico, and they don’t speak much English. My mom works as a hotel housekeeper, and my dad is a mechanic at a tannery. I have two older brothers.
Your parents deserve a lot of credit for making a new life in our country of immigrants. Did you go to college?
Yes. After high school, I went to Marquette University as part of their nursing program. After the first semester, I switched over to the College of Engineering. I was a full-time student, and I was also working at a Chipotle restaurant. College was kind of tough to handle. There are not a lot of women in engineering. It was also kind of culture shock because I had gone to schools where kids mostly spoke Spanish, and we all lived in Hispanic neighborhoods. Then I found myself attending Marquette, a private Christian university where there weren’t many Hispanics.
How did you get involved with the Inner City Computer Stars and Molson Coors?
I never graduated from Marquette. I lasted two years because I couldn’t afford it anymore. I learned about the Inner City Computer Stars through an i.c.stars graduate who had also dropped out of college.
I understand i.c.stars is a 16 week curriculum, right? When did you start the program, and what was it like for you?
I started with i.c.stars in February of 2021. That was during COVID, so we were completely virtual. I was working at the computer 12 hours a day in the program. The first week, I was writing about the program, getting to know my team. And I was learning about how to computer code.
Over the 16 weeks, I was assigned many coding projects. But students are also assigned a main project, which is sponsored by one of our corporate mentors. My project mentor was from Molson Coors. We were required to deliver a final project to our mentors. I met with my mentor each week to show the progress of my work. In the last month, called “career month,” we meet with leaders of different companies, the goal being to get a job.
What was your project for Molson Coors?
I was involved in creating an internal tech portal, a site where employees learn more about their I.T. department… Continue reading