Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Hope by Ruth Utnage

I met with a gifted man last night in my unit. As a young teen he got into coding and built a baseball card collection website. He wanted his site to be visible and quickly realized that he was going to have to do something to get higher on the Google results. It didn't take him long before he was number 7 on the rankings for the search phrase "baseball card collection".

He's spent the last decade inside of a programming book of some sort. He taught himself JavaScript and when given the opportunity to take a computer programming course here in prison, he jumped on it. We were in the class together. I like to think myself as a fairly intelligent person, this class was hard. But not for this guy. While everyone else was struggling to understand If/Then functions in JavaScript he had already built a game, understood a workaround to save his scores, share it with other students and wrote 700 lines of code. It wasn't just impressive, it was intimidating.

He taught himself Node.is and MongoDB, MYSQL and SQL as well as HTML5 and CSS3. He did this in just a few weeks...no seriously, weeks. This was BEFORE he was issued a laptop to take home. Now he's designed an application that helps him in Scrabble, one of his favorite pastimes. He wants to be the best Scrabble player so he decided he wanted to memorize the Scrabble dictionary. But why stop there? His application, that he built for funzies, has nearly 20k words that display scrambled at random in a window. He even designed the tiles to display in the same way they would on his tile holder. He gave himself a 10 second time limit to create a word.

He also built a calculator. He thinks algorithms are fun.

All this and he hasn't even had anyone teach him anything yet. Stuff like this gives me hope because he's been in prison and has done something with himself. Sure, he did whatever he did to get in here and I'm sure he has his share of folks who dislike him, but don't we all? Hell, I got blood that wants me dead, hates me at the very least. But despite this we still continue life. Working to improve ourselves in ways that the community can use us, should it be chosen. This guy's not the social butterfly some are, but he's incredible. He literally doesn't understand how to make connections so he's sat in here for a decade thinking he's not ever going to be useful. Could you imagine a company picking him up? Or a group of developers started sending him literature? He figured out REACT.JS, Facebooks thing, in just a few minutes. Minutes... in minutes he was so proficient at REACT.JS he became our teacher. Cool huh?

Pretty amazing. Anyone want to meet a genius?

With Love
Ruth



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