Ascend Project

Mentorship and barrier-removing accelerator program designed to explicitly invite, include, and support adult learners in making a first technical contribution to Open Source software.

Contact Us!

    Applications Closed

    01 Jul 2014 »

    Time for Round 2

    As of this afternoon, the application form has been taken offline and the applicants to date have been contacted regarding the next step in the selection process.

    Here is the correspondence with applicants:

    Thank you for your interest in being a part of the first-ever Ascend Project taking place in Portland, Oregon this coming September. Applications have now closed and it’s time to move on to the next step in the selection process where you are asked to do a bit of self-directed learning. You’ll be doing beginner JavaScript because we will be using it in our time together this fall when learning how to write tests.

    Please complete the following on or before July 20th:


    Go to and create an account - set your username to be the first letter of your first name, then your last name (using the same name you submitted your application with). If there is a conflict with existing usernames, please add the number 789 – hopefully that will handle all conflicts.

    e.g.  I am Lukas Blakk so my account would be lblakk  
    (or lblakk789 if lblakk was taken)

    If you are very new to the web and to programming do the HTML/CSS course as a softer start before tackling the JavaScript - it is here and it will give you some good foundations that will come in handy later

    The course everyone needs to complete to continue to be considered as a potential participant in Ascend is: – you must do the entire course, all the way to the Cash Register exercise. You should get a visible signal once you have completed the course (and a badge).

    • SEND A LINK:

    When you have completed the entire JavaScript course send the URL for your user account (e.g. ) to so that your completed goal(s) can be confirmed. You will get a confirmation of receipt and meeting the goal.

    Once you have completed your JavaScript course and received confirmation that your goal has been met please sit tight for further communication regarding the final step in participant selection which will be a brief interview either by phone, video, or in person.

    Selection process for the 20 spots in the Portland Ascend Project will be completed on or before July 31st so you will know by then what to expect for September. If you have any questions or concerns while you are working through this exercise, please send them to

    Tips for getting through the programming exercises:

    Not everyone is going to feel super comfortable with the material. As someone who came to programming at a later age, I can recommend the following things have worked for me when trying to learn programming (or just new things in general):

    • Read through the directions carefully before starting to write any code
    • When you are getting feedback that there’s an error, read your code out loud to yourself and see if it matches what the directions sound like when also read out loud to yourself
    • Always check for those pesky semi-colons that go at the end of a JavaScript statement
    • Take it slow, read both code and directions carefully, sometimes the smallest mistake hides itself well and computers are VERY LITERAL, they do not know how to improvise on what you’ve given them to work with
    • Be patient and gentle with yourself, errors in code are not a reflection of your ability to learn well - everyone gets them at different times, forever, it’s called being human - so if you need a break, take one! Walk away for a minute or go do something totally different and then come back to your problem with fresh eyes
    • Focus on understanding why your code had an error – add it to your mental bank of what possible issues could be so that every time you are debugging your code you can go back to things that have happened to you before and try those in attempting to fix the problem
    • There are hints in the Code Academy lesson area, use them if you need them, no shame if you feel like you’ve tried everything else you can to understand what might be incorrect in your code Doing this exercise shows your commitment to participating in a project with such a large scope as Ascend will have but it’s also an introduction to learning how you learn. Pay attention to what’s working for you and what’s not. We’ll talk about this more in class, and even if you do not end up being selected for the first Ascend Project there’s benefit to understanding what works for you in whatever you want to learn, by whatever means.

    Thanks everyone, I look forward to hearing back from you as you complete this next stage.

    The week in Portland was very instrumental in getting to meet people outside of the current tech environment. Thanks to Claire at Outside In I was able to go and speak directly with homeless youth who were curious about this opportunity. With help from Shawna Scott and Dino Anderson there were several blasts of communication to local organizations to spread the word about applications being open and it really worked. When the applications first opened there were only 3 from the largely un-publicized first week. Then, thanks also to Open Source Bridge for having me keynote about Ascend, and to attendees who engaged me in discussion, offered help, introduced me to potential participants, and spread the word around Portland we went got 40 applications by the time the window closed. More than enough to go through and work with people to create a strong cohort of learners from many different walks of life but all of whom are seeking that chance to get connected and go deeper.

    Coming soon, posts about budget/cost learning as well as the curriculum beginning to take shape and be available for feedback.

    Going Live

    30 May 2014 »

    And we’re off!

    Today the first inquiry from the site came in. Things are getting very real now. The application form is up on the site, so now it’s time for social media pushes and getting flyers & posters distributed in Portland in the coming weeks. If you are in Portland and have a place for a poster to go up, or cards to be placed out where potential applicants might see them - please reach out!

    Here’s what I’ve learned so far in getting to this point:

    • Everything took longer than I’d estimated
    • People asked great questions at that informal chat including: Would we have a bug tracker? (Yes, we do now on GitHub) What happens after this? (Working on pulling in more opportunities for grads including OPW and hopefully internships with other projects) What’s the four year goal? (I’m working on this one - having more of these programs in more places seems like the obvious answer for now)
    • I am trying to get better at asking for help and it’s paying off (Thank you Madhava for the poster!)
    • Definitely getting more familiar with Jekyll and markdown which is great because it allows every aspect of this project & website can be open

    Now that the applications are kicked off, here’s what’s next:

    • Looking for volunteers to spread the word on the ground in Portland (see volunteers)
    • Getting posters & flyers printed and distributed
    • Looking for opportunities to talk about the project
    • Keynoting at Open Source Bridge about the project and looking for contributors & mentors at the conference
    • Processing applications and making sure people get office hours if they need them
    • Setting up office hours with the Portland Space
    • Doing the Training-Up program with Greg Wilson as I start iterating on the curriculum

    Update on deadlines coming up:

    • June 30th - Applications close
    • July 15th - Start interviewing applicants who have completed Round 2 (Codeacademy’s JavaScript module)
    • July 30th - 20 Participants selected and notified for the Portland group

    Introducing Ascend

    09 May 2014 »

    Explicit Invitation

    You are invited to apply for this project if any of the following applies to you: you are looking to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, you feel like there’s more for you to learn and push yourself to try in life, you are a person of color, you identify as LGBTQ, circumstances have not made it possible for you to start on or complete a 4 year college degree and you are not currently pursuing one, or for any reason you want to work with technology but have felt like it wasn’t inviting or available to you up until now.

    The Ascend Project is a 6 week, full time course that removes many barriers and allows participants time and support as they focus on learning typical open source practices: IRC, bug trackers, code review, committing patches, and the larger opportunities available to users & developers of the open web. The curriculum will focus on setting people up to succeed, getting hooked on solving problems with code, and being a part of a bigger community with a mission for global good. The intention is to counter the manner in which many populations are either completely ignored, or sometimes pushed away from participation in computer science and open source contributions when it costs too much to join in.

    This site is served and hosted on the Ascend Project GitHub repo so that all the materials, as they are being developed, can be available for viewing/input/contribution. If you are interested in contributing, please take a look at the Issue Tracker and get in touch.

    Community Planning Meetings

    We will be starting a public call for community planning around this first pilot, please stay tuned for call in details and link to notes.

    Upcoming deadlines

    Pilot 1: Portland, OR

    • May 12, 2014: Open the Call for Applications (Round 1)
    • June 13, 2014: Applications closed

    Pilot 2: New Orleans, LA

    • Planned for January/February 2015
    • Need to confirm location