Khoury College student club gives back to Boston through code and design

July 28, 2020

By Ysabelle Kempe

Code4Community isn’t your average volunteer group. The Khoury College club approaches experiential learning with a charitable spirit, allowing students to work in a professional, collaborative environment while also giving back to the community. And Northeastern students are noticing the unique opportunity.

“We have a very large audience,” said Sadaf Khansalar (BS ‘22, combined major in CS and Music Technology), who serves as Code4Community’s club operations and administration director. Although there are currently 23 members on the club’s product team, Khansalar said that “over 70 people attended the group’s kickoff event in 2019. That’s amazing to see because it was our very first year.”

Code4Community develops and maintains software solutions for Boston nonprofits at no cost. It welcomes developers of all technical levels by offering student-led workshops and attracts students both inside and outside Khoury. A significant cohort of the club consists of design students from Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD), according to Khansalar.

Stephen Alt (BS ‘21, double major in CS and physics with a minor in math) devised Code4Community, bringing together a group of his friends to help materialize the concept. In addition to Alt, the club’s e-board consists of these founding members: Liam Moynihan (BS ‘21, combined major in CS and computer engineering), Reine Nisheiwat (BS ‘21, combined major in business administration and design), Jack Blanc (BSCS ‘22), Jack Tonina (BS 22, combined major in business administration and DS), Tina Noorani (BS 21, combined major in CS and design), and Khansalar.

When partnering with organizations, Code4Community seeks out nonprofits that have an essential impact on the Boston community and a need for the products the group creates. This past academic year, the club worked with two local nonprofits.

The first, Speak For The Trees Boston, aims to improve the size and health of the city’s urban forest, particularly in underserved and under-canopied neighborhoods. Code4Community worked with the group to create a web application that allows volunteers to reserve blocks of trees for inventory. When volunteers are done collecting data, they can mark the section as complete.

“It simplified their dataset to a lot of the extent,” Khansalar said. “And it’s very mobile-friendly because we know those volunteers are moving around a lot, and they are not on their laptops.”

The second nonprofit, Lucy’s Love Bus, strives to increase quality of life for children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. With the support of  Code4Community’s web app, the nonprofit has an event planning and ticket purchasing system. When Khansalar heard Beecher Grogan, the director of Lucy’s Love Bus, speak to the impact Code4Community’s work had on the nonprofit, she couldn’t help but be moved — Grogan is also the mother of Lucy, who founded the organization and died of leukemia.

“Her words really teared me up,” Khansalar said. “Knowing the impact this application has on Lucy’s Love Bus from Lucy’s mom herself was really powerful.”

So far, the student group has glowing reviews. A representative from Lucy’s Love Bus said, “If the members of Code4Community are any indication of our future movers and shakers, we are in good hands.” Amber Meyers, a Khoury College assistant co-op coordinator and employer engagement specialist who has observed the group’s work, described Code4Community as “truly exemplifying the mission of the Khoury College community.”

“These student leaders are determined, as well as driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and motivation to make an impact on the world,” Meyers said.

Code4Community’s past work is likely only a glimpse of what is to come. Khansalar reported that the group is currently seeking nonprofits to work with during the upcoming academic year. Khansalar has dreams for the club to continue to grow and work with the Boston community. She directs interested new members to the club’s website, where applications for designers and developers are currently live.

“My hope is that our members keep coming back because they are engaged and having fun,” Khansalar said. “I want this to be a learning experience that students can benefit from and expand on outside of the classroom and C4C workshops.”